Good Lord. If I told you that Syracuse would win by one goal, you would probably say there’s a good chance. If I told you the Orange would get straight up demolished at the faceoff X, you may have been a little more hesitant. But that’s exactly what happened.
The Syracuse Orange got absolutely slaughtered at the faceoff X but still managed to pull off an 11-10 win over the Yale Bulldogs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Defensively, SU didn’t really have an answer for Ben Reeves, an issue many other opponents have had this year, giving up four goals, two assists, and ten shots to the stud attackman. Offensively, I thought the Orange did well, especially when you consider that it didn’t have the ball a lot in the first half. That’s the trouble with losing faceoffs, you put a ton of pressure on your goalie and the defense to get a stop so that the offense can get a possession.
Evan Molloy had a tremendous game. He faced 42 shots on Sunday and singlehandedly kept the ‘Cuse in the game throughout the first half with nine saves and 15 on the day. This game had the opportunity to get out of control without his efforts.
The Orange had a season low in groundballs with 20, shots with 29, and shots on goal with 16. On a positive note, SU did have a season low turnovers on the day with four.
Syracuse won the opening faceoff, and would not win another for 41 minutes. Syracuse got the scoring started just a minute and 17 seconds into the game. Sergio Salcido found Brendan Bomberry who cut behind his defender. Bomberry was just able to corral the pass but doing so forced him to dive. It was an incredible play as he put it into the net while in the air. That being said, he did land partially in the crease but with no call on the play, the goal stood.
Yale picked up the next two, the first from Matt Gaudet with the assist from Ben Reeves while on the second Jackson Morrill, from behind cage, hit Joseph Sessa in front of the cage who went low far side on Evan Molloy. Jamie Trimboli was able to tie the game back up at two, dodging from the top right in the box, getting a step on his short stick midfielder and firing at a very tough angle. On the next goal, it was Ben Reeves finding Lucas Cotler inside. Cotler got around his defender and fired a shot past Molloy with two minutes remaining in the first period.
With only seconds remaining on the clock, Syracuse pressed the ball in transition and got it to Salcido who fired from two yards inside the box. The ball went it just as time expired in the quarter.
The Orange kept up the pressure to start the second period. With 12:14 on the clock, Nick Mariano dodged from the top of the box, getting a step on shorty Tyler Warner and getting a side arm shot to go as he was crosschecked to the ground. After the goal Mariano got right up and into Warner’s face to exchange some words. The refs let the flags fly. When Yale came on to the field prior to the game, some of the Bulldogs and Orange players started chirping at each other with Warner very much in the mix. This was clearly a continuation of the pre-game exchange. Mariano was hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty and a mouthful from Desko.
Several minutes after Syracuse killed off the penalty, the Orange held the ball in the zone. A flag hit the turf for what would be a slashing call on Yale’s Brian Pratt. When the whistle finally blew after Yale recovered the ball, Nate Solomon hit the ball carrier after the whistle. It wasn’t hard, but it was significant and it was technically a crosscheck. Either way, the refs called two penalties negating the original SU man-up. Of note, on the next timeout, Yale may have taken some liberties after the whistle with no call. I also wouldn’t have made the call, and I don’t know if that’s what Desko was upset about but he was absolutely livid with the referees.
After the commotion died down, Ben Reeves came up and above goal line extended. Scott Firman was staying with him alright but without a ton of physicality. Nevertheless, Reeves just shot it right above Firman’s shoulder to tie the game at four.
The Bulldogs finished off the period with two goals in the final two minutes in the half. On the first Lucas Cotler had Joe Gillis on gle. Cotler faked going away from cage and Gillis bit. Cotler then cut the opposite way right towards the goal and dove around the top of the crease with no slide from the Syracuse defense. On the second, Reeves, with nine seconds to go, took Firman up and around cage getting a step on him and firing to give Yale the 6-4 halftime edge.
The Orange got just four shots off in the first period and ten in total in the half compared to Yale’s 28. Ultimately, it was all due to the faceoffs. Syracuse took just one of ten total faceoffs in the half with Danny Varello going 0-2 and Ben Williams 1-8. The two faceoff guys managed just two groundballs on the game. Overall, it was not a pretty game for the sandbox boys.
The second half didn’t start off any better. Just 1:21 into the third, Jackson Morrill came from behind cage and got right in front of the crease for an easy goal with nobody on him and no slides. Syracuse managed to stay in it, however. Salcido took a shot that went right over the crossbar. Jordan Evans corralled the shot behind cage and sent it right back to Nate Solomon on the crease and went behind-the-back to cut the deficit to just two. Brad Voigt got the next one on a man-up opportunity from a dirty angle to make the score 7-6 Yale.
Just over a minute later, Sessa hit Gaudet inside. Gaudet turned and fired as he got slammed to the turf by the incoming slide to put the Elis back up by two.
But Syracuse was not done. The Orange picked up three straight to finish out the third and gain its first lead since the beginning of the second period. On the first, SU was able to win its second faceoff of the game to gain possession. Mariano dodged from the top of the box, getting some room on his defenseman and firing a lefty shot past Huffard. Miraculously, the ‘Cuse managed back-to-back faceoff wins. While the Orange ended up turning it over on a save from Huffard, Austin Fusco caused a turnover. Fusco sent the ball to Evans who went straight to the open net and buried it to tie the game. Finally, with 1.9 seconds on the clock in the third period Stephen Rehfuss found Jamie Trimboli in front of the net to put the Orange up by one.
It was anyone’s game to start the fourth, but I have to admit that given the faceoff problems I didn’t think the Orange would pull it off.
After a brief scoring draught to start the final period, Syracuse got its fourth straight goal off of the crosse of Ryan Simmons who got the ball about ten yards off crease. The Yale defense was out of position and Simmons thought about passing before stepping into a shot that beat Huffard high and give SU the two-goal lead. Just over a minute later it was Ben Reeves again, snagging his 200th career point. After a failed dodge down the near side, Reeves swept around the top of the box and got a side arm shot on the run to go. Next up, it was Reeves again, beating Firman as he dodged up from goal line extended and put it right through five hole, tying the game at ten.
Finally, with 2:09 to go in the game Stephen Rehfuss put away the go ahead goal. Rehfuss came up from behind cage and went completely vertical leaving his long-pole in the dust and going high on Huffard, 11-10 Syracuse and that’s how the game would end.
Wow. Seriously, this season has been insanity.
Next week the Orange will take on the Towson Tigers in Newark, Delaware for a nooner in the quarterfinals.