After a week of self-evaluation, the Syracuse Orange said they would respond to the disaster at Duke. Obviously something clicked this week. For the first time this season, Syracuse put together a complete game. A few weeks ago, Syracuse beat Hopkins despite their face-off game, doing everything else right. Today though, this team just did everything right. Notre Dame came into the Dome as the #7 team in the country having big wins over Virginia and UNC. As we talked about earlier in the week, Syracuse needed to win this game to continue to have a shot to make the ACCT. As for their odds in making the NCAA Tournament, well, they just got a heck of a lot better.
Chris Daddio has taken the brunt of the criticism for this team all year. Saturday, the senior showed his character as he fought off a very disappointing season to give his squad a chance. Notre Dame brought the nation's top face-off corps to the Dome, but something completely unexpected happened: Syracuse won face-offs. Don't get confused either, this was not a game where the face-off duties were split amongst a group of Syracuse players; Daddio took every one. He finished the game 15-24. If you've been following this team all year then you have to be happy for this kid, and impressed by his resolve to continue working even as his skills were questioned over and over.
The question now becomes what did he do differently today? First off, it appeared he used a different stance than usual. He had one knee down and got over the ball a lot quicker. Daddio locked up his opponent, whether it be Ossello or O'Connor, for an extended period of time giving his wings a better opportunity to get the groundball. Previously, Daddio had allowed quick matchups, with the opponent's FOGO often being able to grab a gb. Today he battled hard, getting more physical than he has all year, and it paid off. Speaking of the wings, they were great all day, Henry Schoonmaker and Peter Macartney in particular.
"My wings helped me a lot. I wasn't winning them clean but I was staying down on the ball and fighting and Pete Macartney and Schoony and all the other wings were a big help."
- Chris Daddio
Schoonmaker finished up with 4 groundballs, and spent much of the day running at LSM. Macartney had 6 GBs and 2 caused turnovers. Overall, SU fought hard for the GBs all over the field and several extended battles left players, on both sides of the ball, flying onto the carpet. Early in the fourth quarter, Sean Young demolished a Notre Dame midfielder, and though he got an illegal body check penalty for it, the move was representative of the nature of the game, physical and brutal.
I can't say enough about the long-poles. They had a deadly double-team on the Notre Dame attack, with slides being timed perfectly. All year, Matt Kavanagh has been allowed to score from shots 10-15 yards out; that is his spot. Today, the Irish's leading scorer found himself having to fight for every opportunity. Kavanagh did not get a goal all day as Brandon Mullins had maybe his best game of the year, completely shutting down the star attackman. Mullins kept his stick on Kavanagh's hands, staying with him and not allowing Kavanagh to burn him with his notoriously quick feet.
I don't want to leave Scott Firman out either, he had 2 caused turnover sand 3 GB's. The Syracuse poles did a great job getting physical on goal line extended and pushing the ball carrier away from the crease and forcing a pass. Watching the game, on several occasions the ball carrier noticed when the double was on route and would bail out of their dodge. That is how intimidating the close defense was today.
Randy Staats rotated in with the midfield for most of the game. In the win at Hopkins, I really enjoyed seeing Derek Maltz play with the starting attack, I just thought it flowed better. Staats had 3 assists on the day, and on the game winning goal he started off the quick ball movement that led to Rice putting it away on the crease. Maltz held his own once again on the attack line with 3 goals and made the first tally of the game, batting in a cross-crease pass from Kevin Rice.
Rice had 4 goals and 2 assists. The Junior scored on every shot he put on net. I think Rice is underrated from a national perspective, but when he gets the ball he shines. Dylan Donahue rounded up the attack with 3 goals and 1 assist. The starting attack line had an outstanding .875 shots on goal percentage, finishing with 10 goals on 16 shots (14 on net).
The attack scored 10 of the 11 goals today. The lone midfield score came from Nicky Galasso in transition to round out a 3-goal run in the span of one minute and thirteen seconds. Scott Loy had a frustrating game, taking 4 shots (2 on net) and giving up the ball twice. The midfield played well, but they didn't have to be outstanding given the dominance of the attack.
One interesting note has to be the goalie situation. Dominic Lamolinara finished the first half with 5 goals against and 7 saves. He had a fantastic game, maybe his best of the year with several great stick saves and clearly he was seeing the ball well. Coming out of halftime though, Coach Desko switched Lamolinara with Bobby Wardwell.
Look, we are lucky enough to have two excellent goaltenders, and I don't want to take anything away from Wardwell, but why pull Dom from the game? To me, that move only invited potential problems. Syracuse had been playing so well through the first half and I was kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, with this team you worry that any move could be the one that upsets their flow and sends them spiraling again. When I saw Wardwell in the crease I figured this was it, to be clear it's not his ability, just the possibility of upsetting the tone of the game by putting in a cold goalie. To his credit, Wardwell played well too with 5 goals against and 6 saves.
"I thought coming out of the duke game...Bob played great in the second half. He had a bunch of saves one on one, a couple that he should and a couple that he shouldn't have [had]....we felt good about putting him in."
- Coach Desko
A weak spot for Syracuse in this game continues to be the turnovers. All things considered, 16 for 20 clearing isn't terrible but they give up the ball on stupid, but correctable, mistakes. SU had 15 turnovers, 10 of which came in the second half. Notre Dame came into the week, second in the nation for man-up offense. Syracuse held them to 2-4, and on one of the Notre Dame EMOs in the fourth period, the UND offense looked inept as they simply couldn't penetrate the defense or find holes to shoot.
Syracuse takes on Binghamton on Wednesday at 7:00 pm. The game can be seen on TWCS or heard on 99.5 WTKW.