Siena's FOGO, Casey Dowd, has been one of the top players at the faceoff x over the last few years. In 2014, the senior finished as the 15th best FOGO in division I with a .588 winning percentage. Against Syracuse last year, Dowd went 10-23. In the Saints' game against the Bryant Bulldogs, Dowd took 10-20, going against the, statistically, best FOGO in the country, Kevin Massa. Over the last three years, Dowd has had a combined .558 winning percentage. So why am I talking about how good Casey Dowd of the Siena Saints is? Because against the Syracuse Orange on Saturday, Dowd went just 4-22, and the newfound savior at the X for Syracuse, Ben Williams, hauled in 17-20. Finding a solution for faceoffs was the number one concern for the Orange after last year, and it appears that the problem has been solved. At one point Williams won a faceoff so cleanly, that he was able to take it straight to the net for his first goal as a Syracuse player, awakening memories of former Syracuse
FOGO midfielder and faceoff man Jeremy Thompson. Williams finished the game with 11 groundballs in addition to his .850 winning percentage. In its first game, Syracuse raised expectations surrounding this year's team significantly by finally finding its answer at the FOGO position. Oh, and Williams is a sophomore.
In goal, Bobby Wardwell started the day and played until OCC transfer Warren Hill took over with six minutes to go in the third quarter. Don't worry though, we have not yet entered dual-goalie rotation territory. Wardwell allowed four goals through 36 minutes and made five saves. Hill had just three saves and allowed three goals in 21 minutes. Coach Desko said at media day that Hill still needed to work on other aspects of his game, and it looked true. The clearing passes from Hill looked a little iffy, and overall I thought Wardwell appeared more comfortable and quicker to the ball. Nevertheless, this was a good chance for Warren to see some solid action and get his feet wet at the division I level.
Syracuse had a big turnover problem in 2014. Saturday, the Orange coughed up the ball 16 times, and while it did not hurt against a team like Siena, that number should be of some concern considering the level of opponents' play will get significantly better in the upcoming weeks.
Randy Staats had just two penalties last year. Against Siena, Staats was flaged twice for cheap penalties. The first, a delay of game penalty, came after Staats didn't immediately drop the ball and before he did he gave a forearm shove to a Siena defender (after the whistle) sending the player to the ground. The second came on a Siena clear when Staats gave a light shove to the Siena's backup goalie Nick Capalbo. Both unnecessary penalties will most likely be addressed but Staats must control himself in the future. That being said, Staats pulled in a goal and two assists.
Dylan Donahue and Kevin Rice both had excellent games. Rice was mostly tied up in the first half by Siena's Pat Killeen who did an excellent job shutting down the star attackman. In the second half, however, Rice freed himself up and returned to his usual form finishing the day with two goals and four assists. Rice looked like one of the best feeders in the game, working from behind the net for most of the day. Rice's counterpart, Dylan Donahue, had four goals on seven shots.
Hakeem Lecky has already doubled up his 2014 assist total, ending regulation with four assists and adding a goal to boot. Lecky's goal came at 4:16 in the first quarter, dodging from up top and diving in front of the net to get his first of the year. On another high note for the Orange, Nicky Galasso picked up three goals on Saturday. His most impressive came in the second quarter in a fantastic display of athleticism. After cutting down the side of the box towards the crease, Galasso slammed on the breaks just below the goal line where he spun around his defender and back up towards the top corner of the crease sending in low shot to make the score 7-3, Syracuse.
Overall, the clearing looked much better than it has in previous seasons' early games for Syracuse and the Orange went 17-18.
In garbage time, fans were treated to some excellent play by red shirt freshmen J.T. Forkin and Ryan Simmons. On the second of his two goals in the game, Simmons found himself alone on the crease with the ball, threw three pump fakes before sending it into the net over a tumbling Nick Capalbo.
Saturday's win was a great game to see how well this team can operate, but it is important to keep in mind the opponent. The Orange will get its first big test of the year when it hosts the Cornell Big Red next Sunday.