March 29, 2014

A Week After Embarassment, Syracuse Responds

by Stephen Bailey | LaxMagazine.com

 
A week after giving up 21 goals to Duke, Syracuse limited Matt Kavanagh and Notre Dame in an 11-10 victory. "This was the best our defense has played all season," defenseman Brandon Mullins said. (Cecil Copeland)

Kevin Rice caught a pass on the left doorstep, wound up and began to shoot. But as Notre Dame defender Chris Prevoznik completed his full-field sprint back toward the cage, Rice faked. Prevoznik slid by, and Rice needed only three more steps to whip a shot past Irish goalie Shane Doss' right foot.

Rice's goal put Syracuse ahead with 2:40 remaining and kept a quickly dissolving season alive, as the No. 9-ranked Orange responded to one of the most embarrassing losses in program history by gutting out an 11-10 victory over  No. 7 Notre Dame in front of 5,454 fans at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

"At that point, I thought it was the game with the way that Chris [Daddio] was winning faceoffs and the way we were making them work for anything," Rice said. "I don't think they score without having the ball for two or three minutes at a time. I figured if we made them have to make a quick play, they wouldn't be able to do it."

Syracuse (5-3, 1-3 ACC) picked up its first-ever ACC victory a week after suffering a 21-7 beatdown at the hands of No. 3 Duke. Notre Dame fell to 4-3 (2-1 ACC).

Rice led the way offensively with two goals and two assists, while Derek Maltz and Dylan Donahue added three and two goals, respectively. Conor Doyle scored a game-high four goals for the Irish, but it wasn't enough to push the team over the top in a game it never led, but tied three times.

"I just think a win like this, to have for the record books, is great," Syracuse coach John Desko said.

The victory provided hope particularly for an Orange team that was has cycled through six different faceoff men this season with little success. Daddio went 15-for-24 against Notre Dame, including 7-for-10 in the second half. Irish faceoff specialist Liam O'Connor entered the week with the second-best win rate in the country at 70 percent, but was flummoxed by Daddio.

"Every faceoff guy I've ever been around has an off day or a guy he struggles with," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said.

Daddio knocked the ball to himself on a number of occasions, but also was successful in tying up O'Connor and allowing his wingmen — primarily Peter Macartney and Henry Schoonmaker — to swoop in for ground balls.

Syracuse won four of six fourth-quarter faceoffs to limit the Irish's comeback effort.

"I didn't make many adjustments," Daddio said. "I just came out confident, trying to forget about the beginning of the season."

After Syracuse used a 3-1 run to push its lead to 10-7 at the 13:41 mark of the final frame, Corrigan turned to Nick Ossello on faceoffs.

Ossello had sparked the Irish in the first half, and he won another faceoff to reenergize his team once again. Will Corrigan and Pat Cotter buried shots to pull the Irish within one.

Then O'Connor popped the ball to himself and Jim Marlatt spun off Tom Grimm on the left side before cranking a shot into the top-right corner. Marlatt's goal tied the game at 10 with 6:29 remaining.

But from there, the Orange held Notre Dame to just two shots. The Syracuse defense that had played well the whole game — limiting Notre Dame's top scorer Matt Kavanagh to just two assists — clamped down again.

"This was the best our defense has played all season," Orange defenseman Brandon Mullins said.

Wardwell caught a Trevor Brosco shot with 2:22 left, and Macartney cleared. Randy Staats swung the ball from the point to Donahue on the right side. And Donahue zipped it across to Rice for the go-ahead goal.

But even after that goal, complete with a monstrous fist-pump, the Syracuse defense needed one more stop.

With 14 seconds left, Kavanagh drove in from the left side and tried to avoid the crease while diving and shooting. But he was called for stepping on the line.

"You'd like to think he got held on that, but that's a play he's going to finish nine times out of 10," Corrigan said.

The missed opportunity allowed Syracuse to escape with a crucial win. After losing to Duke by two touchdowns, the Orange avoided falling to .500 and kept its ACC tournament hopes alive.

"It was embarrassing," Rice said of the loss last week. :It was embarrassing for the program and the alumni. That's why this week was huge for us to test our mettle as a team. I think the response today shows the character of the guys on this team."


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