Monday Notebook: NCAA Division II
Limestone is the South region champion.
Book it, right?
"You've got to beat Limestone to a get a run and a look, and it has been difficult to do that," admitted Peter Bourque, the head coach at Catawba College. "They are the pinnacle right now."
Don't kid yourself. As much respect Bourque and the Indians have for the Saints, the last thing they are about to do is cede the South region bid.
And that's what is on the line when these two teams meet on Saturday. Because the Indians finished the season with a 14-2 record, along with the Deep South Conference title around their waist, they earned the right to tangle with Limestone with a tournament bid on the line.
The Catawba players know it.
"We don't have to ratchet it up all," said Bourque. "This is an opportunity for the program and they know it and they see it. We don't really have to talk about it. Our biggest thing is to keep it in perspective. It is another game and it's a game we want to win, just like all the others. We just have to prepare, get our minds right, our sticks right and give it our best shot."
Catawba will be fighting a Limestone team that has only has one blemish this season, but the Indians will also be battling history. Bourque is the first and only coach in the 19-year history of the Indians' program and he has never managed to defeat the Saints. He's been close at times – the 10-9 loss in '08 being the latest example – but he's never grabbed that elusive first victory.
"It's been one of the few teams that we've haven't had any success with at this juncture," Bourque said. "Limestone is Limestone. They are a very good club and they take advantage of mistakes."
Because of the history and Limestone's reputation, the Indians will be huge underdogs even though they are the home team on Saturday. Catawba does have something in their favor, however, and that's senior goalie Mike Pecchia. The British Columbia native was outstanding in the Deep South Conference tournament, averaging 17 saves a game as the Indians won the conference title for the second-straight year.
"He got injured earlier in the year and he's come back very strong," said Bourque of Pecchia. "He's been playing really great. It's like in the playoffs in hockey; if you've got a hot goalie, you've got to ride him. We've definitely been doing that. He has been a catalyst."
Pecchia has been helped by the likes of junior close defender Drew Stoltz, who will be tasked with slowing one of Limestone's superb attackmen – Riley Loewen or Shayne Jackson. On the offensive end, senior attackman Braden Artem has the most goals in school history and is second in points, while Tom Cullop (25g, 17a) is explosive out of the midfield.
Bourque said he considers Catawba an up-tempo team and that most teams have altered their approach to the Indians. That style could play right into Limestone's strengths, so we'll see what the upstarts plan is on Saturday. The main goal is to be in striking distance when the fourth quarter rolls around.
"Just like any other game, if you're there tight, you've got a chance," said Bourque.
- So Limestone has two of the most prolific offensive players in the country in Loewen and Jackson yet junior FOGO Jake Ternosky is named the Conference Carolinas Player of the Year? Didn't see that one coming.
You can't argue with Ternosky's numbers. He's won 172-of-246 draws this spring, which is devastating when combined with the Saints offense. Ternosky even chipped in with three assists and a team-high 71 ground balls. But conference player of the year?
Clearly Limestone coach J.B. Clarke felt strong enough to nominate Ternosky and the rest of the league coaches saw the value in his performance this spring, but I don't recall a FOGO every receiving an award like this before. Congratulations to Ternosky.
- NYIT gave it a good run. The Bears needed to defeat No. 1 Mercyhurst on Saturday to jump into the NCAA tournament discussion, but fell just short as Lakers middie James Chayka struck with two seconds left to give the visitors a 7-6 victory.
The loss closes the door on Bill Dunn's crew (although NYIT should be very good next year), but keeps Dowling at the top of the list for the Wild Card. In addition, it keeps alive the very slim hopes of the Northeast-10 grabbing the Wild Card. With Dowling still faced with a potential landmine game against Limestone on May 6, Adelphi and Merrimack have a breath left (especially with the upcoming NE-10 tourney), although it is definitely a long shot.
- Belmont Abbey first-year head coach Chris Barrett was named the Conference Carolinas coach of the year...Southern New Hampshire stunned Merrimack earlier this year, but Dowling wasn't about to endure the same fate. Vito DeMola was one of three players with hat tricks as the Lions hammered the Penmen, 15-7...not sure what the tiebreaker protocol is for the WILA, but it appears Dominican (Calif.) and Colorado Mesa are headed for it...the NE-10 tourney is going to be no joke...your goals per game leader at this point? Kenny Lutz from Molloy...Adelphi's Greg Puskuldjian leads the country in faceoff percentage (71.3%).