What a Save! Mike Adler's Last-Second Stop Seals 15-14 Duke Win Over Cuse

PHOTO BY NATALIE LeDONNE / DUKE ATHLETICS


Mike Adler slid across the goal line from his left to his right and tracked the ball. He followed it as Stephen Rehfuss made an improbable catch on the backside after an equally improbable 20-yard pass from Owen Hiltz. Adler exploded up to match Rehfuss’s diving backhand shot. 

He stared up at the ball as it landed firmly in his stick. He then lifted his right hand in exultation. 

The last-second, doorstop save by the graduate transfer from St. Joseph’s capped a frenetic finish and preserved No. 1 Duke’s 15-14 win over No. 5 Syracuse (4-2). Adler’s teammates at first, though, seemed unsure of how to react. Surely, it seemed, there would be another twist in what turned into the game of the season thus far that featured a near constant stream of highlights.

It is safe to say the heavyweight ACC clash in late March that felt like a final four preview lived up to hype and then some on Thursday night at Koskinen Stadium. Did you expect anything less? 

The last fourth contests between these programs were all decided by one goal. Unlike the last three, the Blue Devils walked away with the win. 

The outcome seemed far more certain in the first half. 

Under a steady rain, Duke poured in seven goals in less than eight minutes during the second quarter to blow open what was a 5-5 game. Michael Sowers, who led the Blue Devils with three goals and three assists and Brennan O’Neill (three goals) each scored two goals in the run.

After O’Neill scored off a blocked Sowers shot, Jake Naso won the next faceoff and scored in transition. The freshman from St. Anthony’s (Naso, not O’Neill) was dominant at the stripe in the first half, winning 16 of 20 faceoffs to help Duke build a 12-7 lead at the break.

Naso, who ranked 12th nationally in faceooff percentage entering the game, finished 24 of 32 and collected 14 ground balls.







Syracuse, however, built off scoring the last two goals of the first half. Rehfuss opened the scoring in the third quarter and cut Duke’s lead to 12-8 with a leaping backhand goal after Adler tried to pursue him behind the cage. 

Though Hiltz, the Orange’s freshman phenom, was marked by JT Giles-Harris and held to one goal and two assists, Rehfuss (three goals, three assists) and junior Chase Scanlan (four goals, one assist) more than picked up the slack.

Scanlan scored three of his goals during Syracuse’s 6-0 second-half run. His man-up goal on a thrilling backhand shot with 8:57 left to play in the fourth quarter tied the score at 13. Tucker Dordevic scored less than two minutes later to give the Orange their first lead since the 6:36 mark in the first quarter. 

The offense that looked dormant most the second half finally woke up. After he received a skip pass from Sowers, Dyson Wiliams (two goals) tied the score at 14 on a man-up opportunity with a time-and-room shot that beat Drake Porter (13 saves) five-hole. Sowers then put the Blue Devils up 15-14 when Owen Captuo found him open on the backside. 

The Orange had their chances to force overtime. They had a 30-second man advantage after O’Neill went offsides with 38 seconds to play and then a two-man-up opportunity in the final 15 seconds after a Walker Scaglione slashing penalty. 

Each time, Adler and the Duke defense held firm. Adler finished with 10 saves, but it’s his last one that everyone will remember. 

It sealed Duke's first 9-0 start to a season since 2005. 

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