After taking down the Duke Blue Devils in a thrilling 16-15 win, the Syracuse Orange took on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday afternoon for the ACC Championship. Offensive leader Matt Kavanagh started the game on the bench, along with John Scioscia and Matt Landis, all of whom missed the morning bus. There was one familiar face not on the field to start the game for the Orange, Dominic Lamolinara. The coaching staff elected to go with Bobby Wardwell as their starter after his huge second half on Friday.
The first goal of the game came from Notre Dame's Sergio Perkovic. The 6'4" midfielder gave Drew Jenkins too much to handle and easily bounced Jenkins off his body to give Perkovic an open look and the goal, 1-0 ND. Perkovic would go on to finish the day with 2 goals and 2 groundballs. Syracuse got onto the board with 12 minutes to go in the first period. Kevin Rice on the goal line extended passed it to Nicky Galasso cutting down the crease, 1-1. Senior midfielder Jim Marlatt had a great game today, and with 9 minutes Conor Doyle who was hung up behind the net found Marlatt cutting towards the crease, 2-1 ND. It took just six seconds for Notre Dame to get their next goal as Nick Ossello won the face-off and took it all the way going high, off-stick side on Wardwell, 3-1 ND. Ossello came into the game to take face-offs for Notre Dame after Liam O'Connor, who had a lot of trouble with Chris Daddio earlier in the season, lost the first three.
Hakeem lecky had a good game on Friday and 5:48 to go in the first, he beat his man down the side of the box and fired on the run to make it 3-2 ND. Rice and Galasso connected again for almost the same exact goal they had earlier in the period, 3-3. Kevin Rice would end the day on a 1 goal, 6 assist performance. Rice has been simply masterful from behind the net this year and he showed it again today.
The first period came to a close with a score from Randy Staats just 9 seconds after Galasso's second of the day. Off the face-off groundball, Tom Grimm got it and passed to Staats who sat high in the box, 4-3 SU.
The second quarter opened up with a dirty goal from Staats. Billy Ward, from behind, hit Staats on the crease where he took two hits, the second one sending him to the ground, but on the way down, with his back to the goal, he threw it behind himself and into the net, 5-3 SU. The next one came from Rice who put away a goal on his signature move, curling around the crease from behind cage, cutting back to get open on the crease and burying it, 6-3 SU. Notre Dame countered however, Ossello took the face-off win, and sent it to Doyle on the wing who put it near-side top-corner. Wardwell shrunk from that shot and moved his stick towards far-side corner opening up the near-side, 6-4 SU. This goal was the first sign that something was off for Wardwell today.
With just under ten minutes to play in the half, Matt Harris got tagged for a holding penalty, sending him to the box. The Irish took advantage of the EMO, Matt Kavanagh moved away from the crease with the ball allowing Eddy Lubowicki to cut in and receive a pass from Kavanagh, 6-5 SU. It took over seven minutes for the next goal, but rolling around the crease Kevin Rice reversed directions, heading back down below cage, making room for Derek Maltz to cut towards the crease and get the pass from Rice for an easy chance, 7-5 SU.
Notre Dame finished the half with a wing dodge goal from Kavanagh and deep snipe from Perkovic, both coming in the final minute of play to make it a 7-7 tie. In the first quarter, Chris Daddio dominated in the face-off circle going 7-8. He struggled in the second quarter winning just 2-8, but would finish the game up 21-33 over the Irish's two FOGOs. Notre Dame, who had been so bad in the clearing game on Friday, successfully cleared 6-6. Overall, the first period looked a little sloppy at points as both teams were working their second game in three days.
The goaltending situation became a problem in the third quarter. Like I mentioned earlier, Bobby Wardwell got the start over Dom Lamolinara on Sunday. I have no idea why they chose to do this. You had two games until the NCAA Tournament, and no reason to create the goalie controversy now. But they did, and the result was Wardwell making just 2 saves through almost 2 ½ quarters. Hopefully his head is in the right place.
The second half started with a holding penalty on Notre Dame face-off specialist Ossello that led to a man-up goal from Dylan Donahue, 8-7 SU. The third quarter score was Donahue's only point on five shots for the game.
At 12:17 it all began to unravel for Syracuse with Notre Dame taking six straight goals. Westy Hopkins got a wide open look in front of the cage and did a little backhanded trick shot to put it in, 8-8. Jim Marlatt and Matt Kavanagh both had two during the run. Kavanagh had been stifled in his last meeting with the Orange, but today he put up 4 goals on 6 shots and added 2 assists. Marlatt's day included 3 goals and 1 assist. During the 6 goal, 12:30 run, the Irish dominated the possession time and Wardwell had just 1 save.
With 42 seconds remaining in the third period, Randy Staats, who had taken a penalty which gave the Irish an EMO goal during the 6 goal stretch, finally broke the streak by putting a rocket on net from high in the box, 13-9 ND. Even still, Kavanagh managed one more on a defensive breakdown where he was allowed to get underneath the defense on the goal-line extended and drive to the net, 14-9 ND.
Dominic Lamolinara started the fourth quarter, Wardwell finishing his day with 9 goals and just 4 saves. You had to wonder how Dom would react to being pulled as the starter and thankfully he looked mentally strong in his return to the crease, allowing just 1 goal and making 2 very key saves towards the later part of the fourth period.
Randy Staats hit another long-range shot with 12:54 to go in the period, 14-10. The OCC transfer had 2 goals in the fourth period and 5 on the day. Notre Dame's Jack Neer who started off the fast-break which led to the game-winning goal on Friday night against Maryland, picked up his only goal of the day with just under 10 minutes to go in the game, 15-10 ND. Notre Dame would not score again, but instead allowed the Orange to get 4 straight goals to finish out the game.
After scores from Ward, Derek Maltz, Staats and Scott Loy, the Orange found themselves down by one goal with 2:02 left in the game. Although Daddio had dominated in the face-off department during the fourth quarter, Nick Ossello took the ensuing face-off win for the Irish. With Notre Dame on offense and up by one goal, Syracuse needed a stop, and they got one from their goalie. A defensive breakdown left Westy Hopkins open on the crease, and after throwing several fakes he took his shot but Dom was there to throw his face into it. The ball bounced off his facemask and somehow he was able to recover the groundball in the crease. This is why you cannot sit him, what an unbelievable save. Syracuse took a timeout at 54 seconds. As the final seconds ticked down, Kevin Rice found himself behind the cage in his usual position. He tried to find an attackman to pass it to on the crease but everyone was well guarded so instead, he tired to curl around the cage. He came just above goal-line extended before firing high, but Conor Kelly ate up the bad angled shot, and the Orange fell to the Irish 15-14.