Only two scrimmages into the premature season, Nassau Community College transfer Mike Iacono is already feeling the heat. Despite Syracuse winning both of its games against Hofstra and Le Moyne Saturday afternoon up at the Carrier Dome, the face-off specialist knows he can do better.
"I do feel a lot of pressure," Iacono said. "This is big time. I mean, look at this place."
Iacono pointed out to the field and let out a laugh.
"Coming from a junior college to here is completely different," he said. "Maybe that's what it was, the first-time jitters."
At Nassau, Iacono was tops in the country at the X alongside Onondaga Community College's Vaughn Harris. Onondaga head coach Chuck Wilbur told me back in July that Harris was the only guy to get the best of Iacono.
"He is very good," Wilbur said of him.
Iacono was a two-time NJCAA All-American at Nassau and was named the 2013 Region XV Most Valuable Player. Although NJCAA face-off statistics from last season are incomplete, it did show that he won 78 percent of his face-offs (56-for-72). He picked up 113 ground balls and chipped in eight goals and two assists.
On Saturday, Iacono admitted the pace of the game is what crept up on him.
"It's the speed," he said. "It's a lot faster. That's the only thing I need to work on: getting faster at (facing off).
Hofstra's Kris Clark embodied that quickness Saturday afternoon and gave Syracuse face-off specialists Iacono (2-for-11), Chris Daddio (3-for-8) and Austin Wentworth (1-for-3) fits. Clark went 14-for-19, contributing to the Pride's 17-for-23 showing at the dot.
Syracuse head coach John Desko is all too familiar with Clark.
"We knew about him coming off of Long Island as a high school player," Desko said. "I thought he was very quick. He was a lot quicker to the ball than our players."
Versus Le Moyne, the showing was a tad bit better, according to Desko. The Orange edged the Dolphins (13-for-23) and Daddio had his best showing yet, going 7-for-11. Very much like the first game, the rotation remained the same: Daddio, Iacono (2-for-6) and Wentworth (3-for-5).
"Hopefully," Iacono said, "by next week, it will be a whole different game. I was nervous this morning when I woke up. I guess I got (the jitters) out of my system."
As of right now, Desko doesn't believe it has become a psychological factor...yet. He admitted that it may have played a part in last year's performance, but it certainly isn't the case this early in the season.
"We've got seven guys in the stable that have been working on it everyday," Desko said. "We've spent more time on face-offs since fall and spring than ever before."
Syracuse will look to correct its mistakes against Bucknell and Towson in scrimmage play next Saturday, Feb. 1 down in Towson, Md. It's the team's last tune up before its season opener versus Siena on Feb. 10.
Face-offs still a concern for Syracuse
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