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NCAA Final Four: Notes from Philadelphia

I’d give up everything I’ve achieved individually to get a chance to play on Monday.” – Rob Pannell

It seems like that’s where we have to start. Seven points on the day, 355 (a new Div 1. NCAA record) total in his career. During Cornell’s six-goal run (in which he registered three goals and two assists) in the third and fourth quarter, everyone knew the ball was going though Rob Pannell’s hands – Duke just couldn’t stop him.

There seemed to be an actual moment where Rob saw his career coming to an end, decided that wasn’t happening, put the team on his back and started chipping away at that lead one goal at a time. You know the scene in Tombstone where Wyatt Earp walks through the creek saying “No!” and takes out like eight dudes? Pretty much that. Never seen it? Go watch it when lacrosse is over. Awesome movie. Anyway, where was I?

Duke vs. Cornell

Coming into Saturday’s game, Duke was 6-3 all-time against Cornell, and 2-0 against them in the NCAA tournament. Duke was the seventh-seed, and Cornell was unseeded, but be honest: how many of you expected Cornell to walk away with this one? Nobody would blame you one bit for predicting that “upset,” and they almost pulled it off; it all came down to that one-sided third quarter.

Leading 7-6 at the half, the Blue Devils went 6-9 on faceoffs, picked up twice as many GBs, and scored on seven of the eight shots they put on cage. When the smoke cleared, Duke was up 14-7 going into the fourth. For the Big Red, coming back and winning was just too much to ask. But only barely. See the intro, in case you’ve forgotten already. I know, it’s a lot to take in.


The Pioneers played in nine one-goal games this season (they were 5-4 in those games), which was the second-highest total in the NCAA. You know who played in 10 of them (and won seven) this year don’t you? That’s right…


Last week their comeback featured two goals in 44 seconds. This week? Two in 39. The Dillon Panthers think these Syracuse games are getting a bit unrealistic. Let’s summarize this madness another way: Denver scores the first goal just 57 seconds into the game, holds the lead for about 58 minutes and Syracuse wins. Absolutely unbelievable. Unless you’ve been watching them this season, in which case it’s pretty believable. But even still, kind of unbelievable.

The Goalie Switch

It’s obviously quite easy to answer in hindsight, but it’s been the biggest question coming out of yesterday’s Denver-Cuse game: when you operate under a two-goalie system, do you pull your first half goalie when he’s absolutely standing on his head (and shutting down the top-seeded team in the NCAA semifinals in the process)?

Syracuse peppered Ryan LaPlante left and right (23 shots in the first half), and he made it look like they were tossing beach balls his way. So what do you do, stick with the system that’s brought you success, or stick with the player who’s currently bringing you success? Coach Bill Tierney made the switch (“this is what we’ve done,” he said) and never looked back. Would you?

The Dive

A late-game crease violation call (a Cornell player was pushed in the back after passing the ball) got me thinking about what is, and isn’t crease violation. Diving into the crease is like pro wrestling. Seriously, stay with me here. When you’re young and first watch pro wrestling (at least I hope this wasn’t just me), you see a guy get thrown off the ropes. He bounces, keeps running, and it makes perfect sense.

Eventually you get a little older, learn about momentum, intertia and common sense, and realize the runner’s helping that “momentum” a little more than you first thought. That’s exactly what goes on with a high percentage of diving goals that the refs allow. Get pushed in the back on your way to the goal? It’s essentially turned into a free play; feel free to launch yourself into the crease. How is a ref supposed to handle that?

Do you call it a crease violation no matter what? Of course not, that potentially benefits the defenseman who got beat and decided to shove his man in the back. Make diving legal if, and only if, you’ve been pushed? Then you have to decide exactly how hard the player was pushed, which makes an already difficult judgement call even tougher on the refs. If you’re a ref, let me know you feel about calling these “dive vs no-dive” situations. Until then, I say just bring the stupid thing back already. It’s basically here.