The Syracuse Orange were able to defeat the Albany Great Danes 11-9 in first round of the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse will now go on to play the Maryland Terrapins in the Quarterfinals at noon on Saturday.
Sunday we saw a true tale of two halves. The Orange offense looked as bad as they have been this season in the first two quarters. SU had just two goals, one in each of the first two periods, leading to a halftime deficit of 6-2. Ben Williams went 0-5 in the first quarter at the faceoff X. After appearing to switch his stick to start the second he finished the half 4-10. Williams would go on to take 12 of 24 faceoffs on the day.
Connor Fields picked up the first goal of the game just 22 seconds after the start. Fields went high on Evan Molloy from about 10 yards off cage (1-0 ALB). Tim Barber from behind cage was able to hit Dylan Donahue who got open in front of the net off of a nice restart set (1-1).
Syracuse would not score again for the next 22:30 of play. In that span, however, Albany put away four straight goals. Finally, with 5:01 left in the second period, it was Sergio Salcido dodging from the alley and going low on Blaze Riorden (5-2 ALB). With only 2:46 remaining in the half, Syracuse went on the clear. Evan Molloy holding the ball outside of the cage tried to fake a pass with Connor Fields on him. Fields didn't bite and instead, grabbed the ball straight out of Molloy's stick. Fields raced out in front of the net to get the easy goal on an unguarded goal (6-2 ALB). Finally, Syracuse had hit rock bottom.
The SU offense simply couldn't find any opportunities and looked stumped by the Albany defensive set up. Syracuse had just 12 shots in the first two periods and lost the groundball battle 8-13. As bad as the offense was in the first half, the defense played well. Once again, the defense was led by Evan Molloy who had seven saves in the first half and 12 in the game. On the other side of the field Blaze Riorden played well.
Going into the midpoint break down 6-2, I don't think anyone would have predicted a Syracuse win. The Orange had momentum and was playing emotionless. Somhow, though, SU found a spark at halftime.
Right off of the opening faceoff, it was clear that Syracuse would not go down without a fight. Three straight shots for Syracuse on its initial possession led to a Nick Mariano goal as he elevated from goal line extended, spun back and got under his short stick defender going low, far side on Riorden (6-3 ALB). I expected a lot from Mariano, but the UMass transfer had just one shot on goal on the night and two turnovers.
Tim Barber followed Mariano up with a goal less than a minute later to cut the Albany lead to two (6-4 ALB). The Great Danes stopped the bleading momentarily with goal number seven, but the Danes could not slow down the Orange and its five third period goals.
With the score tied at seven going into the fourth quarter, the Carrier Dome was rocking. The crowd had been quiet in the first half, but as the Orange made its comeback the Orange faithful really got into it.
John Maloney put Albany back up on a five hole score (8-7 ALB). Syracuse, however, still had the momentum and Tim Barber tied it again with a shot from the wing (8-8). The Barber goal led to a 4-1 SU run to finish out the game.
Throughout the game, but especially in the second half, groundballs were physical battles. Give credit to both teams as every player on the field sold out for possession with bodies all over the carpet. The increased faceoff wins allowed Syracuse to get a few more possessions in the second half, and SU was a lot more patient with the ball. More importantly, the Orange came out of the half unafraid to take shots. SU had 18 shots in the third period and by creating more opprotunties, forced Albany to give shooters more respect.
Finally at 9:54 to go in the game, Syracuse got its first lead of the day on a Salcido dodge where he drew the double team but still found a way to get a shot off while being hampered (9-8 SU). The next goal came from the crosse of Joe Gillis. It was Gillis' seventh goal on the year and probably one Riorden would like to have back as the shot was a slow moving bouncer that found the five hole (10-8 SU).
Adam Osika got his second of the day with 6:48 left to play pulling the Danes to within one (10-9 SU). Unfortunately for Albany, that would be it for the day. Jordan Evans got the final goal of the game after coming up and around cage, getting a step on his defender and going far side low on Riorden (11-1 SU). Evans finished his day with two goals on three shots on net with zero turnovers.
I can't give enough credit to Desko and the leaders on this team. Yes, Syracuse came out flat. Honestly, the Orange offense looked like they didn't belong on the same field as Albany in the first half. Yet somehow this group was able to turn it on in the second half.
All that being said, if Syracuse plays Maryland like it did Albany in the first half, SU will find itself with a much bigger hole to climb out of.
The Syracuse Orange will face the Maryland Terrapins at noon on Saturday in Providence, RI. The game can be seen on ESPNU. Of course, you can follow me @Orangelax for updates.