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Syracuse Struggles at Face off X, Loses Heartbreaker to Duke

Duke goalie Mike Adler (0) makes a save against Stephen Rehfuss in the dying seconds to win the game for the Blue Devils.
Duke Athletics

Syracuse had this game circled on their calendar ever since the season began. The No. 4 Orange traveled down to Durham and fell 15-14 to the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils.

Cuse has been electric on both sides of the field all season. They rank 2nd in goals per game in the ACC (16) and Drake Porter’s .590 save percentage entering tonight led the conference. However, the middle of the field gave Syracuse their biggest issue.

“When you are not winning faceoffs, you have to learn how to play like it,” head coach John Desko preached. “Some teams know how to play because they consistently lose faceoffs. We don’t. We needed to use our shot clock more on offense when we aren’t winning those draws.”
Syracuse was certainly in unfamiliar territory at the faceoff dot. Junior Jakob Phaup only controlled one of the 11 faceoffs he lined up for. That’s when Coach Desko consulted his assistant Tommy Costanza and made the switch.

SU's Jakob Phaup (blue) and Duke's Jake Naso (white) battle at the face off X. Naso won 24 of his 32 draws on the day.

“Jakob was getting beat cleanly. We thought we would try Danny [Varello] because it’s always been a nice one-two punch for us.”

Varello came out of the bullpen during the second quarter. The senior would finish 7 for 22 at the draw circle and didn’t give up his job to Jakob Phaup. However, he lost his first 6 faceoffs, allowing Duke to score five unanswered goals in the frame. 


Syracuse felt that most of the draws were out of their control. Several cries from the sideline indicated that the Orange was fed up.

“Our faceoff guys were having a problem with how the officials were calling it,” John Desko commented. “We could’ve had a couple more [victories]. A couple times we saw them move early and thought the call went the wrong way.”

“Duke was going in early. [Jakob] Phaup and Danny [Varello] are a great one-two duo. Danny stepped up and Phaup will certainly bounce back,” said redshirt senior Stephen Rehfuss in support. “It was a fine performance.”

Rehfuss tallied a hat-trick in tonight’s contest, reaching 15 goals on the season. Sophomore Chase Scanlan led the Orange in scoring with a four-goal performance. It is the second-straight game that Scanlan stood atop the goals category. 

Losing at the faceoff dot set the tone for the rest of the game. Although the Orange chomped back at the Blue Devil lead, the draw controls for Duke in the first half were too much to overcome. A last second miracle shot from Rehfuss was corralled by Duke’s Mike Adler to secure the one-goal victory.

No. 4 Syracuse is back at the Dome next Saturday when they host No. 6 Notre Dame. Countdown to Faceoff will be live at 11:30 for the noon draw. This Saturday, a special Sweet Sixteen edition of Countdown to Tipoff begins at 9 pm for the 9:55 matchup between Syracuse and Houston.