As if Hopkins getting the win against Syracuse wasn’t big enough, they went and did it with some style defeating Cuse 17-5 in Baltimore. Not only did the Blue Jays shut Mike Powell out for only the second time in his career, but the Orangemen were also held to their fewest amount of goals in a game since 1993 and suffered their worst defeat since 1987. Conor Ford led all scorers with 4-1 and was one of 6 different Hopkins players to score 2 or more goals. Hopkins goalie Scott Smith was an absolute wall recording 10 saves on 19 shots, including two unbelievable sprawling saves against Powell on two separate one on one breakaways. Overall it was simply a story of numbers, as the Blue Jays had 16 out of 17 assisted goals, won 20 out of 24 faceoffs- Harrison was 10 for 11, and more than doubled Syracuse’s shots 50-23.
Something seemed a bit off as the Blue Jays entered through the famed Homewood gates. The normally deafening crowd was slightly muffled and the players appeared to be trying a bit too hard to get the fans going; although minor details, it made me wonder if Hopkins was up to the challenge and being surrounded by orange and blue #22 jerseys wasn’t helping. Despite the 50/50 crowd support, seen as something of a miracle by those who have played at Homewood before, all the signs were dead wrong as Hopkins jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead.
The first came on a questionable call, in all fairness though the “favorable refs” weren’t really seen today, as Hop got a man up rip from newcomer Jake Byrne who sent home a righty off stick side hip shot. The new #25 looked a lot like the old Blue Jay #25 as Pfeifer had no chance on the cannon.
Pfeifer again could do nothing but watch on their second goal, as Conor Ford fired home a feed on the crease hitting the nearside corner. Harrison then won the ensuing faceoff, he’d won every one so far, and Hopkins again settled it down and began working the ball around. Cuse’s troubles began early, as they turned over the ball continually on clears and it cost them on this run as an errand pass went behind only to be picked up by an alone Kyle Barrie. Barrie took a few steps, coming just even with the goal line extended, and snuck the ball nearside for the 3-0 lead.
The Orangemen finally managed to get on the board after a broken clear from the Blue Jay defense, as Brian Crockett found Brian Nee alone on the doorstep, who fired the cross crease pass home with a low to high finish. It was at this point that Cuse finally found their footing and looked like they were going to make a game of it, as Nee struck again with 21 seconds left in the half. He backdoored his d man from x and caught the pass as he came around the front of the goal, easily dumping the ball over the Hopkins keeper. While the Syracuse offense began to strike back, it was at the other end of the field that was causing all the trouble. Not only was the Orangemen D getting picked apart already, but they also looked uncomfortable and awkward while carrying the ball. This not only led to more offensive opportunities, but it also allowed Hopkins to continually control the pace of the game, as if winning every faceoff wasn’t enough already.
The second quarter started in similar fashion to the first, as the Hopkins band was struck up once again, this time on Harrison’s only goal of the day. While he only got this one, with a lefty side arm rip from the top left, he dominated faceoffs all day and was basically unstoppable when he dodged. His win on the next faceoff led to a six goal tear in which Hopkins probably only gave up the ball on one or two occasions. Every goal was different and it didn’t seem to matter what type of a shot it was, as they were all going in. The Blue Jays appeared to be an unstoppable scoring machine, with too many options to even attempt shutting them down; which isn’t far from the truth.
Syracuse’s inefficiencies in the game are best summed up by one play in the first half. After a great save by Pfeifer, a Syracuse defenseman picked up the ball and took it down field. At about the midline, he realized they had the numbers for a fast break and decided to pass to a streaking midfielder cutting slightly ahead of him. Normally, this is the best option, however it’s usually not a good idea to do this with a behind the back pass. Harrison easily picked it off, all he had to do was reach his stick out, and hit a streaking Jake Byrne who finished it for his second of the day.
The bleeding was finally slowed with 3 seconds left, as Syracuse scored their only goal of the second quarter. They also got what seemed like their only stop of the period, they did have two saves, but this one was with the help of the goalies best friend. After a cannon of a shot from out top, the ball smacked the pipe and bounced straight up landing in the stick of an Orangeman midfielder. He took the ball the length of the field and quickly gave it up to Nee, who found Crockett alone up top and put it home with an unsettled shot, thankfully ending the first half 10-3.
The Syracuse D couldn’t stop a thing; Hopkins had their run of the game the entire first half. When they wanted to shoot, they shot. When they wanted to pass, they passed. In fact, there was only one instance in the first where a Cuse defenseman easily stopped a Hopkins player. It was quickly growing louder and louder and the many Cuse jerseys I spotted at the beginning of the game were quietly disappearing from sight.
The second half looked like it could be a bit brighter for Syracuse, as they managed to stop Hopkins for the first three minutes of the third quarter. This is unfortunately where things went from bad to worse. After controlling the ball for a good deal of time on O, the Orangemen turned it over and Hopkins began to clear the ball into their zone. Syracuse finally showed some life at this point, riding the ball back and quickly finding a cutting Mike Powell. As Powell gunned towards goalie Scott Smith, it appeared as if this was going to be the spark that got them back into it. Powell, who was being chased but had no one near him, chose not to throw a fake and immediately shot to the lower right corner, hoping to surprise Smith with a quick shot. While Smith was slow getting his stick to the ball, he kicked out his left foot and deflected the ball back out in front. Powell was ten feet behind the goal before he even realized the shot was saved.
The frustration was slowly beginning to mount for Syracuse, as they then gave up two quick goals to Ford and Dowd eventually leading to a goalie change. Senior Jay Pfeifer out, Senior Nick Donatelli in. While a change between the pipes has occasionally resulted in a complete turn around, it was a desperate attempt at this point and one that really didn’t alter the outcome of the game- the two keepers combined for only one save in the third.
The teams actually traded goals for most of the period, as Hopkins backed off a bit on offense, but still controlled the pace of the game. With the score at 13-3 it didn’t look good, but a comeback was still definitely possible, especially with the fun and gun of Syracuse. However at 3:13 left, the nail in the coffin came in an extremely surprising form, as another broken Hopkins clear was again picked up and fed to a cutting Mike Powell. Wide open, he had only Smith to beat, he made one fake and again went low. Smith once again never bit and made a sprawling save ending up on his back. The ball was kicked back out front and Syracuse ended up with two men in the penalty box as both Nee and Powell were called for slashes. It was at this point that the Homewood fans showed their infamous sportsmanship, culminating in sporadic shouts of, “You suck Powell.” “Take a seat Mikey,” and the ever pleasant “You’re no Ryan or Casey.” His team’s down 13-3, I think that’s embarrassment enough.
The fourth started with two more Hopkins goals, one of which was without a doubt the prettiest of the day. Kyle Barrie dodged from the right side and passed to Duke transfer Matt Rewkowski, who was only a few yards away. Rewkowski took a few steps, readied a shot, and was immediately met by a double team. He rolled back to his right and in the process gave a back handed flip to Kevin Boland who was left alone on the crease for the easy overhand righty put it.
There was no shot of Syracuse coming back at this point and their frustration was more than evident. Penalties, stupid plays and lost passes on man ups plagued the Orangemen in the fourth eventually leading to a 17-5 final.
Hopkins is easily the best team to play the game in recent years. Their offense is patient, filled with multiple weapons; deadly accurate shooters and they’re coached by the greatest defensive mind in the game. If they play like they did today throughout the season and overcome their constant choking in the tourney, they’ll walk away with the championship.
Johns Hopkins vs. Syracuse