Loyola Looks to Reverse Denver Woes, Win ECAC Tournament and NCAA At-Large Berth
After Denver traveled to Baltimore in mid-March and handed Loyola a 12-8 loss, Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey addressed a few reporters in the media room at Loyola's new athletic complex. Having just watched Denver become the clear favorite to win the ECAC and Loyola drop its second straight game to a ranked opponent, Toomey made a blanket statement: "We have to do some soul searching."
Half a season later, Loyola has an 8-4 record and is on the bubble for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. Now it's the Greyhounds turn to travel to Denver, for the inaugural ECAC postseason tournament, and where their NCAA postseason chances will boom or bust.
"I don't think there's really any pressure," senior goaltender Jake Hagelin said. "We know what we have to do. We have to go out and win."
Loyola is seeded second in the ECAC tournament and plays third-seeded Fairfield at 4 p.m. local time in Thursday's first semifinal. Top-seeded Denver plays No. 4 Ohio State immediately following the first game. The championship game is 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPNU) and the winner gets an automatic berth in to the NCAA tournament.
The Greyhounds likely need to win the ECAC tournament if they want to make the big show. Their strength of schedule isn't terrible (they've played Duke and Johns Hopkins), but they are without what would be considered even one quality win (a win against the RPI top 20, a selection criteria used by the tournament selection committee). Many of the bubble teams around Loyola — Harvard, Colgate and Army, for example — have at least one of these such wins.
"We figured going into this game, we had to win two of the next three, however you want to cut it and slice it," Toomey, a member of the tournament selection committee, said after Loyola scored the final three goals, but lost to third-ranked Johns Hopkins, 8-7, Saturday at Homewood Field. "I felt like if you beat Hopkins and you beat Fairfield, you probably give yourself a good chance at an at-large, with the strength of schedule points that you would get by playing just a Denver. So now we have to win ... two of the next two."
Loyola hasn't fared well playing in Colorado recently. The 'Hounds lost to Air Force, 8-6, March 19 in a game that followed the regular season loss to Denver. Last year Loyola and Denver played at Invesco Field at Mile High and the Pioneers won, 12-4, in a game that decided the ECAC regular-season title.
Loyola beat Fairfield, its first round opponent Thursday, 7-6 in overtime April 9.
"We just have to drink a lot of water when we're out in Denver," Hagelin said.
"Spring water," Toomey said, "Colorado Rockies spring water."