The Syracuse Orange women’s ice hockey team wrapped up the second half of a four-game series against College Hockey America rival Penn State this weekend. Syracuse (2-4-1, 2-2-1 CHA) blew a 3-1 lead Friday night, allowing three unanswered goals and falling 4-3 in overtime. Saturday, SU was able to hold their third period lead and added an empty-net goal late to win 4-2.
Coming off two straight games against PSU last weekend where the Orange had blown first period leads, Paul Flanagan’s team was looking to turn the tide against a program that SU has historically dominated. Heading into the weekend, Syracuse led the all-time series 26-3-7 against the Lions. But Penn State came into Tennity Ice Pavilion undefeated and as recipients of top 25 votes nationally for the first time in over two years.
On Friday, Maeve Connolly opened the scoring for Penn State with her first career collegiate goal, going five-hole from the slot on goaltender Allison Small. It was the first time Jeff Kampersal’s team had scored first in the series, but the lead wouldn’t last. Tatum White, Jessica DiGirolamo and Abby Moloughney all recorded goals in the second period for the Orange, with Moloughney’s goal standing out. She worked into the PSU zone one-on-two, before flipping a backhand knuckler top shelf over the shoulder of the goalie Josie Bothun. Yet despite the offensive firepower in the second period, Syracuse would learn why a two-goal lead is considered the worst lead in hockey.
In the third period, the Nittany Lions scored two goals to force overtime. Down one, Penn State senior Natalie Heising notched her 51st career goal, firing from a sharp angle over the glove of Small to tie it. Then, 3:47 into overtime, Kiara Zanon blew through the neutral zone, up the right wing right past Moloughney and went blocker-side on Small to send the Orange home disappointed — again. It was the fourth time in six games that SU had blown an early lead and left the ice without picking up the full two points.
On Saturday, the Orange were able to finish strong, but not after another slow start. Just over 11 minutes after puck drop, freshman Olivia Wallin scored for PSU, but Sarah Thompson was able to quickly answer to tie it for the ‘Cuse. The second period went similarly, with Wallin recording her third goal of the season — all of which have come against SU — before Moloughney was able tie it back up at 2-2. The difference maker would arrive in the third period when Emma Polaski converted on loose change right in front of the goal on the power play, giving Syracuse their first lead of the game. Victoria Klimek would seal the deal with an empty netter with just 11 seconds remaining, putting any hopes of a Nittany Lions comeback out of the way.
With his team dressing just four defensemen and relying heavily on freshmen forwards to provide offense, it has been a struggle for Flanagan’s team to get going early this season. Of course, it’s still better than last year’s 0-9 start to the season and the future does appear to be bright moving forward.
“We have to recognize why we were successful today, bottle up that momentum and know that is the way we have to play. We are capable of it,” Flanagan said after Saturday’s win.
The Orange women do not have any further games scheduled for 2020. They finished the two-weekend, four-game slate against Penn State 1-2-1 and will look to keep the momentum going into the New Year, when they will continue CHA play.