In its first visit back to the Carrier Dome since upsetting the Syracuse Orange in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Army Black Knights were handed its first loss of the year. While maybe not as fun to watch as last week's Cornell game, Sunday's match certainly had a high entertainment value. Sunday's game against the Army Black Knights was a nail biter from opening to end. For the vast majority of the game, a defensive battle raged with both squads keeping the other's firepower in check.
Most impressive however, were the goalies. Sam Somers emerged last year as one of the best net-minders in the country, and he sure didn't disappoint Sunday as he snagged 11 saves. Impressively enough, Bobby Wardwell was able to match his play pocketing 10 of his own. Over and over these two made point blank stops and stood tall throughout the game. A very impressive night for both.
The other good news for the Syracuse Orange is its situation at the faceoff X. Ben Williams, the Holy Cross transfer, won 21 of 25 faceoffs. It really doesn't get any better than that in the faceoff game. Army had a real problem with faceoff violations and tried three different guys at the faceoff circle with no success. While Williams picked up 13 groundballs he does have one issue, which is getting the ball moving downfield on his initial passes.
Offensively, the Black Knights started off the game by rotating the ball and trying to find an open John Glesener up top to dodge or an alley to pass inside. Army had a hard time getting its attack the ball near the crease and had to rely on keeping the ball on the outside of the box. The Black Knights then resorted to running a continuous picking offense from the top of the box. Syracuse did a phenomenal job making the first slides off the picks, rebuffing the ball carrier and shutting down any possible lanes for Army. It wasn't just the long poles for Syracuse, the defensive midfielders did a great job as well.
Offensively, Syracuse had just as much trouble in the beginning of the game finding the net as Army. The Orange finally found some separation in the middle of the third period with a three-goal run. The momentum shift began with Randy Staats driving around the crease and pushing his defender, Sean Jollota, up above him. The positioning move left Staats' back facing the goalie and he fired a backhanded, low shot that fooled Somers (SU 8-7). Staats finished the day with two goals and four assists. Henry Schoonmaker picked up the next goal after receiving an awkward pass from Hakeem Lecky while on the run but still was able to recover and go opposite side low on Somers (SU 9-7). Lecky had a goal and an assist against Army, but it was not his best day as he had a couple of poorly timed shots. The final goal of the run, and the period, started with Kevin Rice drawing three defenders to him. Rice then hit Staats behind the net and he subsequently found Dylan Donahue on the near side. The Army defense was unbalanced and the shift back to the near side came too late, Donahue went side-arm low to bag the game-winning goal and put Syracuse up by three (SU 10-7). Although it was just three goals, it was all Syracuse needed. Donahue had quite a game, finishing with five goals and one assist. Rice followed him up with two goals and an assist.
On the other side of the field, John Glesener buried four goals on 11 shots. Glesener is by far Army's best offensive weapon but he had some trouble putting his shots on net. Cole Johnson finished as Army's second leading scorer on the night with two goals. Connor Cook, the 5'5" attackman, had a goal and an assist. Cook's lone goal came early on in the third quarter on a Syracuse clearing attempt when he leveled a helicopter stick check on Mike Messina, sending Messina's stick flying and leaving Cook wide open on the doorstep to get an easy goal on Wardwell.
This was a well-played game on both sides of the field. Clearly, Army is a serious contender to take down the Patriot League this year. The Orange will play again on Sunday at 12 pm, taking on the Virginia Cavaliers at home.