You can’t blame Siena College junior midfielder Casey Dowd and sophomore goalie Tommy Cordts if they are taking Wednesday’s NCAA first-round game with Bryant very personally.
After all, Bryant features two of the best players in the country at Dowd’s and Cordts’ respective positions. That should put added pressure on the Saints’ dynamic duo when Siena (11-5) travels to Smithfield, R.I., to take on the 14-4 Bulldogs.
“Their faceoff guy [Kevin Massa] is the best in the country, and their goalie [Gunnar Waldt] saves more than 60 percent of the shots he faces,” said Siena head coach John Svec. “We are very pleased to be playing in the NCAA tournament, but we know Bryant is a very good team. Not only do they have a great faceoff man and a great goalie, but they are also very adept in the transition game, as well. They create a lot of six-on-five opportunities.
“As for us, we are going to go out and do what we do.”
Dowd, a 5-foot-9, 210-pound faceoff specialist, is no slouch in his role with the Saints. He’s won 59.3 percent of his faceoffs and has a team-leading 144 ground balls.
“It’s just another game for me,” said Dowd. “Their guy is just one of the 18 faceoff guys left in the tournament. Sure, it’s an honor to be playing in the NCAA tournament, but I’m not going to be worried about what the Bryant guy does on the faceoff. I’ve watched film on him. The main thing I noticed is that he’s fundamentally sound. He’s even had a game this year where he was perfect in faceoffs, and that’s unbelievable. But if I do everything as soundly as I can, I’ll be OK. This is definitely a huge game, but I don’t feel any added pressure to do what I do.”
Cordts has also been excellent for the Saints this year with a 9.79 goals-against average and a .527 save percentage, but he’s going up against a tough Bryant offense that includes senior attack Dan Sipperly of Christian Brothers Academy and junior midfielder Brian Schlansker of Niskayuna.
“I prefer to keep the game in the eight- or seven-goal range,” said Cordts, “but I also know that our offense can score more than its share of goals. I’ve looked at the scouting report on Bryant, but truthfully, I can’t be thinking too much about which way their guys are going to shoot. I’ve got to react to what I see.
“The good thing is that our defenders will try to limit the amount of opportunities Bryant has to shoot. We don’t want to be in a shootout.”
Richie Hurley (34 goals, 44 assists, 78 points), Conor Prunty (25-9-34), Colin Clive (28-5-33), Jordan Barlow (23-7-30), Kyle Curry (22-6-28) and Nate Barry (15-12-27) lead the Saints’ offense.
Bryant boasts three wins over nationally ranked opponents and was ranked 20th this week in the USILA Coaches’ Poll. Massa has won 272 of his 375 faceoffs, while Waldt has a 7.40 GAA and a 60.9 save percentage.
Shane Morrell (39-16-55), Colin Dunster (31-11-42), Sipperly (25-5-30) and James Tucker (24-17-41) lead the potent Bulldogs’ attack.
“We have six or more guys who can score, so they can’t focus in on any one player,” said Svec of the Saints. “It seems like a different guy leads us in scoring every game.”
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Saints have made two previous trips to the NCAA tournament, in 2009 and 2011.
The winner of Wednesday’s game travels to Syracuse to play the Orange Sunday.