Syracuse Orange fans were treated to a great game on Sunday as the #4 Orange took on the #8 Cornell Big Red. Cornell has had just two weeks of practice and had trouble staying with the Orange after the first quarter. In the end, Coach Desko found his 200th win Sunday as Cornell fell to Syracuse 14-6.
The story line from the game was the impressive play from the Syracuse defense. The long poles played much better than against Siena, and did so against a more formidable attack line. The slides were crisp and Cornell had trouble finding an open man on the crease. The Orange were able to contest almost every shot taken by the Big Red often deflecting shots or getting a defensive stick on the shooting stick; Cornell's starting attack was held to a combined one point. In addition, Syracuse goalie Bobby Wardwell played well making some spectacular saves and refusing to give up an easy goal.
Ben Williams went 9-22 at the X, not the same type of performance we saw him put up against the Siena Saints. While both Williams and Cornell's Dominic Massimilian had three faceoff violations each, it looked like Massimilian was getting his body into Williams' stick quite a bit, which is now a violation this year. Although not all of Massimilian's wins can be attributed to this, I think the officials could have called the faceoffs better. Either way, I don't think 9-22 against Cornell is a bad sign, certainly nothing to worry ourselves crazy about.
In net, Wardwell picked up 10 saves and gave up six goals in just under 57 minutes of play. Warren Hill didn't allow a goal, although his broken stick led to a goal on Wardwell (read below), and had two saves. We can also attribute a save to Brandon Mullins who dove in front of the net to stop a rolling ball from going into the net on a broken clear with Wardwell out of the goal. Mullins also had two groundballs and two caused turnovers to match his two penalties (illegal body checking and cross checking).
Offensively, Randy Staats finished the game with three goals and had an assist to boot. Hakeem Lecky had another big game with three goals of his own, followed up by Nicky Galasso with a pair of goals and assists. In two games we have seen both Galasso and Lecky take an increased role in the offense, Lecky has been able to utilize his speed and has shown an unbelievable quickness off the first step of his dodges; the drive down the alley while shooting on the run continues to be Lecky's go-to move. Kevin Rice also picked up two goals and added an assist to his total while Dylan Donahue notched two goals and three assists.
The game got off to a slow start with just one goal being scored in the first period, a goal from Syracuse attackman Randy Staats. The lone first period tally came off some excellent ball movement around the arc of the box until finding Staats who took a deep shot going low on Cornell goalie Christian Knight (1-0 SU). Overall, Sunday's game was a very physical one, and there was no hit harder than this first quarter one from Brandon Mullins.
The second goal of the game came with 13:35 left in the second quarter. Kevin Rice found Dylan Donahue open in the center of the box for an easy goal (2-0 SU). Cornell midfielder John Edmonds responded by driving to the goal and finding net while being pushed into the crease by Hakeem Lecky (2-1 SU). Syracuse went on a five-goal run to finish out the second half. The most impressive of which came from Galasso. Staats from behind the net found Galasso just off the top of the crease. Galasso put in a Staats-like backhanded shot to give the Orange a three-goal lead (4-1).
The ‘Cuse opened up the second half on the man-up after an unnecessary roughness penalty on Cornell's Scott D'Antonio. Derek DeJoe was able to score on the man-up just 16 seconds into the quarter. Cornell managed four goals in the third, two from Connor Buczek and one each from Maryland Terrapins transfer Bradlee Lord and John Edmonds. The Orange managed six goals against Cornell's four in the period. Ben Williams found two points in the third quarter. Following the Edmonds goal, Williams took the faceoff and streaked into the box before sending it to Kevin Donahue on the crease for an easy goal (10-4 SU). Less than three minutes later, Williams won a faceoff to Peter Macartney on the wing. As Williams headed into the offensive zone, Macartney threw it back to Williams who took it to the net and sent it far-side low on Knight (12-4 SU).
The action cooled off again in the final period with only three goals scored in total. Hakeem Lecky had the first goal of the quarter, easily getting a step on his defender and driving straight to the net for the goal (13-5 SU). Kevin Rice had the second, battling his way around the crease and burying the ball while being wrapped up and taken to the carpet (14-5 SU). The only Cornell fourth period goal came from Connor Buczek, his third of the game. Warren Hill had taken over net duties but broke his stick on a check. Hill was still able to make a save without his stick but had to run off the field to switch with Wardwell. As Wardwell ran onto the field the Orange lost the ball on the clear. Buczek took the ball into the offensive zone and put it away high on a flustered Wardwell (14-6 SU).
There is not much to criticize from this win, which was Coach Desko's 200th career victory. The defense certainly stepped up, and offensively we continue not have any worries. The area of the game that showed some issues is the clearing game, where the Orange went just 19-24. The Cornell midfielders played well and I would expect this to improve but against a team that really hasn't practiced riding on a full field at all, there is certainly some concern.
The Orange will continue its 2015 campaign against an Army team which has already scored 20+ goals on two occasions this season. Syracuse will take on the Army Black Knights on Sunday, February 22 at 7 pm in the Carrier Dome. The game can be seen locally on TWCS or on ESPN3 and can be heard on WTKW 99.5 FM.