And yet still, when the post-game huddle broke, U.S. assistant coach Dave Pietramala made sure to remind everyone, “We can be better.” Really?
Pietramala’s defense was well-prepared and executed. Close defenseman Tucker Durkin marked Lyle Thompson, as he did when the pair matched up against each other in college, and limited him to two assists. Michael Evans held Miles Thompson in check (three goals) and Lee Zink blanked crease attackman Cody Jamieson and rising Syracuse senior Randy Staats when he moved down to attack from midfield where he started the game. Staats also drew the pole of Kyle Hartzell when he played midfield.
Durkin used a tough punch check to harass Thompson throughout the tilt, and got plenty of support from roamers looking to close in if the ball appeared in a stick longer than a couple seconds. The Iroquois ended up taking fewer shots (14) than the U.S. scored goals. Pannell outscored the Nationals by two goals on his own.
“We knew a lot of their dodgers are very good at keeping the ball in their stick,” Durkin said. “We wanted to make sure when we doubled, we came in hard and we made sure to try to get the ball on the ground. The biggest thing for us was protecting inside, they are so good at hitting cutters backside, inside, through the defense. We wanted to protect the interior of the defense. We thought that was crucial.”
The U.S. didn’t watch any tape of past Johns Hopkins-Albany games in its “bunker,” its converted common-room space in the dorms at Denver University, where the group meets before doing generally anything, including breaking down film. But they did watch the last couple Iroquois games here, with Lyle Thompson shifted to attack.