DURHAM, N.C. – Duke sophomore goalkeeper Luke Aaron came off the bench to record nine saves over the final three periods as the third-ranked Blue Devils posted a 14-10 win over fourth-ranked Denver on Saturday afternoon in Durham, N.C.
“I think after the first few saves [I started getting comfortable], said Aaron. “The team really rallied behind me and I felt at ease. The defensemen let me see the shots and they supported me. It was a big team effort today.”
The Blue Devils improve to 2-0 while the Pioneers fall to 1-1.
“Watching [Denver] on film offensively they just scared the heck out of us,” said head coach John Danowski. “They’re extremely talented, extremely patient and they play a style that’s unlike anybody plays. So I was very proud of our guys and the way they hustled all day. It was a very good win for us over a very talented team.”
Aaron took the reins in the Duke net to open the second period and allowed just three goals over the next 36-plus minutes as Duke pushed a 5-4 lead to a 14-7 advantage early in the fourth quarter. His previous career-best effort was a seven-save outing against Mercer on February 17, 2013.
“Luke had been playing terrific in practice and we just felt that it was time to see if we could create a spark,” Danowski said. “I think when Luke made that first save I think that the guys got really excited and it helped the team.”
Led by a career-high three tallies by Deemer Class, Duke received nine goals from its first and second midfield lines while faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler and longstick midfielder Luke Duprey added one marker apiece. After sitting out last week’s season opener, sophomore attackman Case Matheis posted two goals and two assists.
“They locked the bases so the attackmen were always covered,” said Class. “So we have to throw it back to the middie and the middie has to make a move or one more to the other middie. So it was guys being unselfish and moving it one more as the keys to our success.”
The tilt between two top-five squads included a high-scoring opening period as Duke secured a 5-4 advantage after 15 minutes thanks to two goals and one assist from Matheis. After Denver tied the game less than two minutes into the second quarter on Jeremy Noble’s goal, Duke outscored the Pioneers by a 3-1 margin to close the half for an 8-6 lead at intermission.
The Pioneers pulled within one goal at 8-7 early in the third period, but Duke used a 6-0 run over the next 17 minutes capped by Class’s third score of the afternoon for a 14-7 advantage with 9:03 left in the fourth quarter. Denver ended its scoring drought of 19:41 at the 8:05 mark of the fourth quarter to and scored the game’s final three goals to account for the final margin.
At the faceoff X, Fowler won 16-of-27 draws and was credited with nine ground balls. Duke won the overall ground ball battle 32-21, including 17-7 in the second half.
Denver was led by Zach Miller’s four-goal performance while Wesley Berg found the back of the net three times. Between the pipes, Jamie Faus (6 saves; 8 goals allowed) and Ryan LaPlante (7 saves; 6 goals allowed) split the two halves.
Duke will host No. 18 Pennsylvania on Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast by ESPN3.