Saturday's 9-7 win over the Colgate Raiders was a nail biter from start to finish.
Colgate came out firing, refusing to give the Syracuse Orange its first lead the game until 4:49 in the second quarter. If I'm a seeded team in the NCAAT, this Colgate team is not one you want to play.
After falling two goals down, Syracuse's Nicky Galasso, in transition, fired an absolute rocket past Brendan Burke to start a two goal run for the Orange (2-3 CU). Dylan Donahue followed that up with a bouncer that went over the head of the falling Burke (3-3). Dylan Donahue's hat trick on Saturday now leaves him four away from tying for tenth in most goals in a season for a Syracuse player. Donahue took ten shots in the game, and if not for the play of Brandon Burke may have had a career day.
After Syracuse was called for an illegal procedure violation, Colgate's Matt Clarkson hit Chase Wittich with a phenomenal pass which he received on the crease. Wittich threw a fake high and got it past Bobby Wardwell for the EMO goal (4-3 CU).
The second quarter started off with a goal off crosse of the 6'4" Ryan Walsh who out muscled Brandon Mullins for Colgate's fifth goal of the day (5-3 CU).
Just over a minute later, with Leo Stouros in the box on a hold call, Dylan Donahue picked up his ACC leading 13th man-up goal on the season (5-4 CU). After an extended Syracuse possession, Randy Staats finally banged in his first of the game faking low and going high on Burke (5-5). That was followed up by Kevin Rice who gave Syracuse its first lead of the day when he scored going high to low on Burke from the same spot off crease as where Staats had scored (6-5 SU). Colgate had been playing a lot of zone defense up to that point but after the three straight goals from Donahue, Rice and Staats, the Raiders went to the man defense. The Patriot League Rookie of the Year, Anthony Abbadessa, finished off the first half scoring with a bounce shot on a nice dodge (6-6).
Ben Williams dominated the faceoff X in the first half going 13-14.
The third period did not feature a lot of offense; just two combined goals. Not long into the second half, the two teams found themselves playing some five-on-five lacrosse for a minute after Clarkson was called for unsportsmanlike conduct while Young got called for an illegal body check. Both sat for a minute with non-releasable penalties. During the five-on-five Brandon Burke made a spectacular, point blank save on Kevin Rice.
Matt Reyes-Guerra-Dunn (yes those are all of his names) gave Colgate the lead again with 9:19 remaining in the third period, rolling back on the crease and putting it just under the crossbar (7-6 CU). On the ensuing faceoff Colgate caught a break after a no-call when Colgate blatantly tripped Ben Williams and the referees then called Kevin Rice with a slash after the faceoff win. About forty seconds into the Rice penalty, Brandon Mullins pushed Wittich into the crease and was called for a 30 second penalty, sending the Orange into a two-man-down situation. Luckily, the ‘Cuse came out of the 6-on-4 situation unscathed after Peter MaCartney caused a turnover.
With the shot clock on, Nicky Galasso faked a shot, ducked under his defender and hit Donahue on the crease for the hat trick (7-7).
At 4:20 in the third quarter, Colgate's John Baker was whistled for an illegal body check to the head penalty, a two-minute non-releasable penalty. The Raiders killed off the two minute penalty, very impressive against one of the best man-up teams in the country.
The Orange went on the man-up after a Matt Yeager illegal body check penalty. The check looked to come on Kevin Rice's head but the referees disagreed. During the EMO, Rice was again checked in the head with no call, and Colgate once again escaped a man-down situation.
Syracuse finally broke 7-7 tie when Staats hit Galasso up top where Galasso had enough time and room to step up and rip a big shot past Burke for the game winning goal, the first such goal in his Syracuse career (8-7 SU). Wardwell picked up his most important save in the fourth quarter after Wittich drove from X forcing Wardwell to make a nice leg save leading to a big Syracuse possession.
With 3:56 left in the game Kevin Rice hit Nicky Galasso at the top of the box for another huge cannon of a shot which Burke had no chance of stopping (9-7 SU). Galasso picked up his sixth, 3+ goal game of the year on Saturday. He has been huge this year for the Orange, and Galasso has turned himself into one of the most important players on this SU squad. Meanwhile, Rice picked up three goals and two assists on Saturday, moving him up to 13th in career points at Syracuse with 206 as he passed both Tom Abbott and Brad Kotz. Rice needs just six more points to tie Paul Gait in most career points, pretty impressive.
Wardwell followed up the Galasso goal by making a big save on Peter Donato, stopping a five hole shot while getting pummeled in the crease.
With under a minute left, Syracuse went on the clear but Mike Messina turned the ball over leading to a good opportunity from Abbadessa who shot wide. Wardwell was able to back up the shot, winning the race to the end line with just 43 seconds remaining. After making only one save in the first half, Wardwell was big for the Orange in the second half making seven saves and stopping multiple shots on the doorstep. Late in the game of some of the last few matches Wardwell has had a few big races to the end line; the SU lacrosse HHH slogan is truly embodied by the senior goalie.
How about Ben Williams? This kid has been the difference maker for Syracuse all year long, and against Colgate he picked up 18 faceoff wins on 20 opportunities and added 11 groundballs. His .900 faceoff winning percentage on Saturday ranks tied for 10th in Syracuse history for winning percentage in a game. No player has entered that top ten list since the 2001 season when Chris Cercy had a .938 winning percentage against Brown.
Honestly though, the story of the game might be the play of Colgate goalie Brandon Burke. In the game preview, I said that Syracuse will need to go high on him as he likes to drop low early, and while that turned out to be true, Burke played his tail off against the Orange making 14 saves on the day, hats off to him.
The Syracuse Orange will find out its NCAA Tournament seeding on Sunday at 9 pm during the NCAA Selection Show on ESPNU. Troy Nunes Is an Absolute Magician will have all your NCAA Tournament information, and you can follow me @Orangelax for updates.