The Waterdogs were down by six goals in the third quarter against Atlas when Charlie Hayes took off in transition, swim-moving a defender at midfield to get into the open.
As Hayes approached the two-point arc at half-speed, Atlas SSDM Jake Richard matched his pace at a poor angle. Hayes accelerated past Richard and scored a nonchalant goal over Jack Concannon’s head before taking a tumble, as Richard tried to supplement his lateness with a last-second check.
That goal made it 13-8 and helped the Waterdogs to a comeback in what, “might have been the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” said head coach Andy Copelan.
Hayes then assisted Connor Kelly’s game-winner (also in transition), and the ‘Dogs stole a 19-18 victory from the jaws of defeat with 10 seconds remaining and a 16.2% faceoff rate. Hayes capitalized on a brief mishap to exploit the defense on both plays. He now owns the highest assist percentage in the entire league.
Through five games, the SSDM unit has produced six points, including three against the Atlas. Copelan encourages both Hayes and Matt Whitcher to push upfield given the chance, and the Waterdogs lead the league in fast break percentage, transition shot percentage and transition goals because of it. So, once Copelan decided not to dress a faceoff specialist, he filled the extra roster spot with a fourth SSDM, and they’ve been the freshest group on the field in two-straight games.
The shorter shot clock has give SSDM’s a longer leash in transition across the league, but Whitcher and Hayes have been particularly productive. And, despite their low profiles, Copelan isn’t surprised by the significant impact they’ve made early on.
“[They’re] just head-down, old school, throwback middies and just workers,” Copelan said of Whitcher and Hayes. “They can get up and out and they can run from defense to offense really fast.”
Both defensive coordinators at Division I schools, Hayes and Whitcher have fantastic instincts as well as overwhelming speed, Copelan said.
Midway through the fourth quarter against Atlas, the Waterdogs were down by three when Whitcher picked up a ground ball and sprinted forward to push the pace. As he reached the peak of the opposing arc, he stutter-stepped into a sharp left dodge and whipped the ball across his body to snipe the far corner on the run. And in the team’s most recent game against the Chrome, Whitcher netted a two-pointer that was called back because of a penalty.
The Waterdogs practice up-the-hash shooting in almost every practice, and Copelan has seen both Whitcher and Hayes excel in those drills.
“I see Whitcher shoot in those circumstances, and he is such a fundamentally sound shooter both righty and lefty that those situations don’t surprise me one bit. We actually encourage them,” Copelan said postgame.
After Hayes didn’t dress in week one, he proceeded to score three points in the next two games, and facilitated a fast break score for Kieran McArdle against the Chrome.