One solitary scrimmage on a cold January afternoon is not enough to make a sweeping generalization.
That said, Virginia certainly looks like it has shored up at least one and maybe both of its obvious shortcomings from last season.
The Cavaliers could do many things last year. They could defend, they could run, they could score. They could send plenty of athletes out.
But they could not win faceoffs, and it cost them dearly in the national semifinals.
(You might remember Syracuse scored nine of the last 12 goals in that game —- and won 14 of the last 18 faceoffs).
That wasn’t a problem on Saturday, with Dartmouth transfer Chad Gaudet throttling Navy time and again.
“I’m fairly confident we’re going to improve there,” coach Dom Starsia said. “Proof is still sort of making it happen a little bit. We still have to sort out the personnel situation that’s dictated by having a long-stick taking the faceoff. We like having [Mike] Timms and [Bray] Malphrus out there, but you have to make some adjustments if you’re going to face off with a long stick. …
“I never felt we were in a good position facing off a year ago. Hopefully that’s what we can get to as we move forward. I feel pretty good about that.”
The other worry spot, realistically, was and is goalie. Virginia survived after benching freshman Adam Ghitelman last year in favor of Bud Petit, and it certainly wasn’t the solid Petit’s fault Virginia was bounced on semifinal Saturday (he had 16 saves against Syracuse).
But there’s also this matter than Ghitelman was benched after his first loss and didn’t see the field again. But Starsia said Ghitelman has looked good since coming back in September; he certainly played well against Navy on Saturday.
“You look at those two areas going into the season, facing off and the play in the goal, I understand why someone would say that has to be a question mark for for UVa going into the season,” Starsia said. “I’m not saying we answered both or either of those question [Saturday], but I felt in both areas we have been improved overall. I think we’re going to be better than we were in those spots. Hopefully by the end of the year, those are going to be strengths for us.”
—- Patrick Stevens