SYRACUSE, New York-Despite the blizzard building outside, spring began
inside the Carrier Dome, as the Syracuse University Orange opened up their
season against the Army Black Knights at 7:30 Saturday night. The game had
all the jitters and energy of opening day, with each team playing at a
rather frenetic pace at times, but the Orange prevailed, 9-4.
Sophomore Danny Brennan owned the face-off circle this game, winning
the first face, and 13 of the next 16 on the day. Apparently the new face-
off rules, forcing each players stick to be further apart and away from the
ball, did not phase him. What plagued the Orange at midfield was
maintaining possession. Many face-offs Brennan won and flicked the ball
out, just to have it snatched up by a Knight or checked out of a stick of a
The first goal entered in the Syracuse scorebook for the year went in
an atypical box, as it was scored by senior long pole, Scott Ditzell.
Ditzell broke out on a clearing pass from senior goalie Jay Pfeifer and
carried the ball all the way down field, where the Army defense never
bothered to pick him up. He stepped into about a 12-yard shot and buried
it behind senior Army goalie Matt Darak's right shoulder. Army shut off
all Ditzell's options, forcing him to take the shot, and forgetting, this
is Syracuse, everyone can shoot.
The back-and-forth play of the first half showed each team riding
hard, making the defenses really work to move the ball down field. Pfeifer
looked strong early, making several good saves and leading his defense
well. He threw several good stick fakes to buy himself time on clears. He
found the open outlet pass, though he occasionally had trouble hitting that
open man if Pfeifer was on the move while throwing. Syracuse almost got
another goal as junior Brett Bucktooth caught a feed on crease and simply
faked himself out of the shot. Army junior John Walker curled around the
crease from X and caught a feed from up top by senior Chris Couch that
Walker tucked around the post and in, giving Army their first goal. The
Orange quickly matched that when Army senior E.J. Behrendt received a one
minute slashing penalty with 4:37 remaining in the first quarter. On the
ensuing man-up, Bucktooth hit junior Greg Rommel, who ripped a shot low to
high that beat Darak to the stick side top corner.
Though Syracuse led 2-1, the Army offense seemed to be moving more
fluidly than the Orange's. The Knights ran a spread formation with a lot
of cutting and motion around the crease, especially when the ball went
behind. At times the Orange offense looked stagnant, with guys spreading,
but not cutting much, each player almost content to wait for a pass and try
his luck beating his man. Hard riding made clearing difficult for
defenses, and each team had opportunities to score with turnovers and
broken situations, but the quarter ended with Syracuse holding a 2-1 lead.
Brennan won the face-off to start the second quarter just to lose it
to sloppy midfield play. The Orange stole another goal when Army lost
possession on a failure to advance penalty in their defensive end.
Syracuse quickly scooped up the ball to start play while Army was
unsettled. Three quick passes, the last being junior Brian Crockett to
freshman Mike Leveille, who shot low and beat Darak between his legs, gave
Syracuse the two goal advantage. Army rode hard and forced a turnover at
midfield that led to a Jim Wagner goal off a broken situation. Both
goalies looked sharp. Darak picked up a hard shot from outside through
several screens, and Pfeifer made two big saves on two pointblank shots.
The Orange offense tried to settle into more of a rhythm in the second
quarter, but had a tough time at first as players kept trying to set up
their next move before catching the pass, resulting in several dropped
balls. Both goalies saved their teams at the end of the half again, this
time Pfeifer made a big stop on an outside ripper going at his ankles, and
Darak on a quick shot from the crease. Army held the ball in the final
seconds of the half, but the Syracuse defense got in a few good stick
checks that kept Army from getting off a shot, ending the half 3-2 Orange.
The repeating pattern of Brennan winning the face just to lose the
ball opened up the third quarter. Army quickly tied the game when freshman
Matt Scheel drove from X, wrapped around, and stuck a shot to the near
post. Syracuse jumped back ahead when Crockett scored on almost the carbon
copy of Scheel's move, driving hard from behind and beating Darak high,
stick side. A sloppy Syracuse clear led to a lose ball scuffle near the
substitution box, eventually landing Orange freshman Steve Babbles in that
box for a one minute unnecessary roughness penalty. Army was stifled on
this man-up, but another Syracuse penalty, this time a slash on Rommel, led
to a man-up goal from Army. Scheel slipped a pass to Wagner on the crease,
scoring the quick stick goal. The Orange almost had a quick answer as
chaos erupted in the Army crease and a diving Orange flicked in a goal that
was waved because of a crease violation. But a lose ball that trickled
away from Army's offense was promptly scooped at the midfield line by
Crockett, who then carried it down into the box and beat Darak to the off
stick side top corner.
Crockett seemed to gain confidence as the game progressed, playing
more aggressively after each good play he made. Bucktooth also got sharper
as the game went on. He drove from X and found Leveille cutting for the
next Orange goal. Bucktooth did not have as much luck when it was his turn
to take the shot, as he caught a feed on the crease but Darak robbed him on
a fantastic save in which he almost did a split to get his stick down and
cover his low angles.
In the latter half of the third quarter it seemed Syracuse sophomore
Steven Brooks got the green light to shoot. He took several impressive
rips from outside that were often a bit rushed and off the mark, but still
kept the Army defense aware of where he was. Crockett got his hat trick
when he stuck a low-to-high shot standing at almost no angle, off the
assist from Bucktooth. Darak had another impressive save to end the
quarter, but Orange remained on top, 7-4.
Brennan again one a face-off to open the quarter, just to have the
ball lost by his line. Much of the sloppy midfield play came from the
erratic game of senior Jarrett Park, one of the best over athletes on the
team (this kid plays soccer, well might I add, all fall, and then joins the
lacrosse team in the spring as a middy). Park constantly seemed to make
one good play, followed by a bad play. He scooped a ground ball, but then
tried to split two or three guys and lost it. He chased down and threw
great stick checks on Army middies, but then got the ball and went back to
forcing the issue. When he hustled he beat everyone to the ball, but he
lacked control and good decision making. If his mental game and
athleticism can coexist, he will become a serious weapon from the midfield.
Down three goals, the Knight's offense tried quick passes to get open
shots, but it seemed at times players got gun-shy and passed themselves
right out of shots. The Orange offense ran into the opposite problem,
often trying to force that extra pass to get the shot that probably wasn't
there. Brooks' gun slinging finally paid off for the Orange, as he grabbed
a pass that was awkwardly almost out of reach, righted himself, and ripped
a side-arm shot to the top stickside corner.
Army lost another chance to score when Wagner muffed a quick stick on
the crease. Syracuse added another goal as sophomore long pole Steve
Panarelli pushed the ball up field and fed Crockett, who scored, but not
without taking a good hit in the end. Army lost another opportunity to get
back into the game as senior Jeff Auer threw a few good fakes to get
himself a shot that went in, but his momentum carried him into the crease,
voiding the goal. Pfeifer stood tall in the fourth quarter, making several
strong saves, including one on a nifty behind the back shot from Wagner.
With a minute left, Syracuse had to hold the ball in the box. Brooks
ran circles around Knights, until he passed to Park, who showed some
impressive footwork of his own, just to lose the ball on a sloppy flip
behind the cage. But Army's last rush was futile, as they were not even
able to get off a shot. The fourth quarter ended with the Orange the
The final scoreboard showed Syracuse winning in almost every
statistical category: 36-19 edge in shots, 14-3 domination in face offs
(though that did not correlate with possessions), and a 12-12 push in saves
(Pfiefer had 12, Darak had 11, freshman Adam Fullerton had 1).
For an offense that graduated most of its top scorers from last
season, the Orange looked strong on that end of the field. Though they may
not have the go to guy like Mike Powell anymore, Brian Crockett is emerging
as the offense's big threat. With four goals and an assist today he jumps
out as the early points leader for the season. Brett Bucktooth also looked
very collected. He is coming into a roll primarily as a feeder, but his
vision gave him three assists on the day. Coach John Desko may be looking
to these men to lead his young offense.
The defense has the reassurance of their leader Jay Pfeifer, who
looked sharp in cage and has oodles of experience going into his senior
year. The poles will have to be the strength of the team since most of the
experience lies on defense this year. Ditzell played a great game throwing
many good checks and living the defenseman's dream, scoring a goal. If the
defense can keep more teams to four goals, it will help take some of the
pressure off a young offense.
Syracuse plays Virginia in the Dome next Saturday, March 5th, in a
double header with the girl's team playing at noon and the boys playing at
3 p.m. Army plays Lehigh in West Point Saturday, at 3 p.m.
Syracuse vs. Army