The sound of UMass Junior Jeff Zywicki’s ball dropping on the lefty top shelf seam (Sir Robert Borden, Ontario) sent the Zoo into a mad frenzy with rain-soaked Gorilla fans rattling the cage and jumping onto the turf at 1:10 in OT. Zywicki punctuated the rainy-day thriller with a crease roll that took Cuse’s Sophomore lefty keeper Jay Pfeifer (Gilman, MD) stick side. This game had all the makings of a classic. For two teams who are better known for their offensive prowess (Cuse No. 1, UMass No.3), both teams logged in excellent defensive coverage from slide-to-ride. Sophomore UMass goalie Bill Schell (Mahopac, NY) came out huge with 2-point blank late 4th quarter saves and Junior Sean Lindsay (Lakeland-Panas) sent the game into OT with 5.5 seconds left in regulation on an EMO goal off an assist from Junior Mike Powell (Carthage, NY). Chris Doyle, Kevin Leveille, and Chris Fiore led the Minutemen each posting hat tricks. Mike Powell and Mike Springer rallied for 4-points a piece (1 g, 3a and 4g respectively).
Prior to the match-up against No. 7 Syracuse, No. 4 UMass has been riding high on a four-game winning streak. Overall, the Minutemen are 11-1 (now 12-1) and 3-1 in ECAC conference play. Their only loss (10-11) is to Penn State on 29 March 2003. The UMass momentum has been strong with the latest 11-8 win over ECAC rival Georgetown last week in Amherst. UMass’ other key wins include: Navy (10-9), Hofstra (14-7), and UMBC (11-8).
This season marks the first time since 1995 that the Orangemen have lost back-to-back games. Syracuse hasn’t lost three straight games since 1981, ironically the last year that UMass beat Syracuse. Despite the regular season hiccups, that 1995 squad soldiered on to win the national championship.
Given the level of talent on the offensive end, the outcomes of the Orangemen are less than impressive. Overall, Syracuse is 7-5. Key wins include: JHU (15-14), Loyola (17-6), Navy (scrim 13-9), and UMD (scrim 13-9). The Orangemen have dropped tough games to: UVA (15-16), Princeton (10-11), Rutgers (11-12 OT), and Hofstra (6-8).
This is the 29th meeting between Syracuse and UMass. The Orangemen lead the series 24-4 and have won the last 22 meetings, including last years 18-10 cakewalk win over UMass at the Carrier Dome. The last time the two teams met at Garber Field, SU barely edged out UMass 9-8.
The heavy weight match-up between the No. 1 team offense in the country (Syracuse, avg. = 13.82 g/game) and the No. 3 team offense in the country (UMass, avg. = 13.00 g/game) was going to be a workshop in fancy foot work, sonic boom, hot doggin, and touch. Clearly, possession and defensive coordination would be the key predictors for the win. The intangible edge is awarded to UMass given to the Mad Max beyond the Thunderdome environment.
Shots on goal: SU (45), UMass (30). Saves: SU (14), UMass (16), Faceoffs: SU (24/30), UMass (6/30), GBC: SU (37), UMass, (32), Clears: SU (14/17), UMass (18/25), EMO: SU (1/3), UMass (2/3).
UMass: Attack – Senior Kevin Leveille (Albany Academy), Junior Kevin Glenz (Lynbrook, NY), Sophomore Gene Tundo (Orchard Park, NY); Midfield – Sophomore Chris Doyle (Mahopac, NY), Junior Jeff Zywicki (Sir Robert Borden, Ontario); Defense – Junior Chris Gervaat (Northport, NY), Freshman Jack Reid (Glastonbury, CT), Sophomore Matt Garcia (Lakeland, NY); Goal – Sophomore Bill Schell (Mahopac, NY).
Syracuse: Attack - Junior Brian Nee (Boys’ Latin, MD), Senior Mike Springer (Ridgewood, NJ), Junior Mike Powell (Carthage, NY); Midfield – Freshman Brian Crockett (Yorktown, NY), Junior Steve Vallone (Corning East, NY), Junior Sean Lindsay (Lakeland Panas, NY); Defense - Junior Dan DiPietro (Brewster, NY), Sophomore Donn Vidosh (Brother Rice, MI), Senior Solomon Bliss (Tully, NY); Goal – Sophomore Jay Pfeifer (Gilman, MD).
Syracuse took the faceoff at the top of the first quarter and this would soon become the Midas standard as Cuse dominated in the circle. The Orangemen turned over the ball on an overthrow at the top of the box with less than 20 seconds into the game. You could tell by the pace and pressure of the game from the first whistle, that whoever was going to come out on top would need to minimize turnovers and execute on the basics. Thirty seconds later, UMass lit up the boards as well as the crowd of 2,362+. Sophomore Chris Doyle found mesh with a righty bouncer at 14:08. UMass would snag possession of the ensuing faceoff. Syracuse stepped up the pressure on the ball and would eventually cause the turnover. However, UMass would pull out ahead by two without a problem. Zywicki drove in from the right and Gene Tundo snagged the rebound and got the prime time look right in front of the cage as he shot low right at 12:59 (2-0). Cuse got the faceoff and worked the ball around on O for one rotation before Powell took a shot on goal that hit the outside of the net. Both teams traded possession for nearly 6 minutes and the Orangemen would have several more decent looks at the cage. The Orangemen would break down into a 1-4-1 and the offball movement seemed too syncopated. Both Powell and Lindsay took the same shot, from the same location, rightside up top, only to hit pipe. Cuse would finally capitlaize on the odds and convert at 6:43 reducing the margin by one. Junior Sean Lindsay took it to Schell lefty in the lower left corner from opposite side up top at 6:43 (1-2). The Orangemen took faceoff but then lost it on a substitution violation. UMass brought it down with Zywicki behind and Fiore, Doyle, and Glenz up top. The Minutemen would work the invert. Glenz dished off to Leveille up top who worked the crease screen and released the ball immediately finding net lower right corner at 4:28 (3-1). Cuse would take the faceoff yet again and Freshman Minuteman Jack Reid would be called for pushing Powell at 3:28. They were unable to convert on EMO as Powell’s low shot on goal sailed wide. Leveille followed up with another goal from up top. He burned his defender who compromised his position by going for the check and wasted the lower right corner with a lefty bouncer at 2:49 (4-1). Syracuse responded thirty seconds later with the last goal of the quarter. Twinkle toes Powell would demonstrate the patented shake and bake sliding stutter step up top. Perhaps the mullet tail had some sort of hypnotic power because the defense couldn’t account for a wide-open Brian Nee on the crease who then tacked the net with a quick, but heavy release lefty shot that grazed Schell’s right hip (2-4) at 2:18.
Syracuse stepped it up at the start of the second quarter. They continued to dominate the faceoffs and were 9/9 in the second period and took 14 SOG to UMass’ 8. However, both team produced a 4-goal output. Cuse had several wide-open tarmac looks in the hole and their off ball movement seemed much more improved. You could sense that the Orangemen were on the verge of converting. Senior Liam Banks (Ward Melville, NY) wrapped around the left side crease posting up against his defender and was able to turn and shoot around his defender finding the top right corner (3-4) at 13:37. Banks would tie up the game at 4 apiece when he overpowered his defender on the strongside roll and got missile lock on the top left corner with a low-high sweeper at 10:36 (4-4). UMass responded with a goal from big man Junior Neil Lundberg at 8:10 (5-4). Lundberg had turned over the ball several times on the same muscle move into the hole and patty cake pass/shot to the keeper. This time however, it finally paid off as Lundberg was able to gain a step advantage and grab the top right corner. UMass called for a time out twenty seconds later. Chris Doyle extended the lead by two off an assist from Leveille who drew the double up top. Doyle worked the free lane and the screens on the crease for a low right corner shot at 6:50 (6-4). Mike Springer responded big time and showed some much needed initiative as he drove around the right side lip of the crease took his defender and unleashed a demon of a shot that hit top left corner (5-6) at 6:35. Syracuse called for a timeout at 5:52. Unfortunately, UMass responded with a goal. Glenz dished off the flat pass to Fiore up top who then split the defender and took advantage of the slow slide and hit low right corner at 4:30 (7-5). Liam Banks notched his hat trick on his knees as he rolled the crease drew the blanket of five UMass defenders and barely managed a shot that hit lower right corner (6-7) at 2:54. Cuse got called for a moving pick down low, but UMass fumbled possession. Chris Fiore got the pretty wrap check at midfield for the turnover that helped to set up the next and final goal of the period. Doyle took the 1v1 up top and seared the lower right corner (8-6) at 1:01.
Syracuse continued to dominate the faceoffs in the third quarter (5/6), scored a couple of more ground balls, and improved their shooting percentage (outscoring UMass 4-1). Sophomore Ryan Connolly (North Andover, MA) scored UMass’ only goal of the third period. The teams fifth leading scorer, Freshman and Rutgers transfer, Sean Morris (Marshfield, MA) stepped out of the shadows. While he didn’t get as much PT in this game, he did seem particularly quiet. Morris rocked the stutter step from behind and drew the double. Connolly flash cut from up high and caught the low pass for the sweeper that cruised past Pfeiffer’s right shoulder at 10:01 (9-6). Syracuse rained on the UMass defense contributing for the remaining 4 goals of the period all of which were some Powell-Springer combo. The offense picked up the tempo of the ball movement and finally demonstrated the high-powered potential of this line-up. Syracuse brought ball down on transition and worked it to Powell behind who then threaded the needle to Springer who was charging in goalside of his defender from up top. The goalie was out of position and Springer shot stickside in a vacant cage (7-9) at 8:46. Springer got another look at a wide open cage for the hat trick. Cuse forced the turnover on the ride and Springer hit lonely mesh at 5:29 narrowing the margin by one (8-9). Powell got the equalizer as he worked the stutter step up top and cruised past the double as one of the defenders tripped and faked the keeper getting the right hip shot (9-9) at 3:27. Springer wrapped up the quarter with the final goal and gave Cuse their first ever lead in the game. With less than one minute left, Springer posted up hard against his defender down low and worked that crease to the bone until he got enough air to work in some nasty torque as he whipped a shot past Schell’s right shoulder (10-9) at :55.8.
Statistically, the fourth quarter was nearly a dead heat. UMass outscored Syracuse 4-3. UMass jumped right back into the fray and squared up the score with a goal from Leveille who was assisted by Glenz. Leveille shot the low bouncer up top using the sea of screens on the crease (10-10) at 14:14. Syracuse got called for offsides and Fiored capitalized on the EMO. Tundo fed the cutter in the middle from behind, but the pass got tipped. Fiore snagged the errant pass and shot lower left corner at 11:17 thereby taking the lead once again (11-10). Fiore followed up with another EMO goal (SU’s Bliss was called for illegal body check) as he got the loose ball in the hole and got off the low shot (12-10) at 10:12. Syracuse returned the favor with two of their homegrown goals. Freshman Brian Crockett (Yorktown, NY) was able to have a stakeout, with snacks and a juicebox, at the top of the box as the defense was too slow to slide leaving Crockett plenty of time and room to crank it stickside (11-12) at 7:27. Less than one minute later, Crockett followed with another goal to tie it all up. Crockett unleashed what textbooks refer to as a “worm burner” from the upper right corner that just vaporized the lower right corner at 6:49 (12 up). Gene Tundo took note and decided to provide an after school class of his own on how to shoot the low to high curler with the top left finish (13-12) at 3:36. UMass’ Bill Schell came up huge as he got two facials from SU attackers in the hole. Schell saved stick side high and down low for the dime hole. You could tell that someone lit a fire underneath both of these teams’ benches. Fiore got called for slashing at 1:00. With EMO and less than one minute left in regulation, the smell of OT was stronger than the sausage stand. SU called for a timeout at 23.4 seconds. At the whistle, the offense looked at little nervous and heads turned Desko’s way. 21 seconds on the penalty and 23.4 in regulation. Powell got the goods on the stutter and drew the already overworked defense up top and left a wide-open Lindsay for the easy top left shot (13-13) at 5.5 seconds. And then there was OT…
SU took the faceoff in OT but turned over the ball as there was pushing on the line. The UMass offense seemed to have that same hesitation the SU offense had with under one minute to go in regulation. Zywicki, the team’s most prolific scorer (53 pts), like Morris, had been on the down low during the game, but man, did he pick the right time to score. Zywicki drove around the right side lip of the crease and without hesitation, absolutely nailed Pfeiffer’s stick side, top left.
Final score: UMass 14, Syracuse 13 (OT).
Ironically, the score should be no surprise and yet the win has a feel of an upset. While Syracuse has been inconsistent to say the least this season, don’t discount this squad at tournament time. Same thing goes for UMass. This team is on the yellow brick road of respectability, and with each quality win they silence more critics. The true test will be in May. Can this team go Final Four? Or even win the whole thing? We’ll have to see.
Syracuse will face Georgetown 03 May at Georgetown while UMass will face ECAC opponent Rutgers at Rutgers, 03 May.
Thanks to rik for the sweet photos.
|Kevin Leveille||(3, 1)|
|Kevin Glenz||(0, 3)|
|Gene Tundo||(2, 1)|
|Chris Fiore||(3, 0)|
|Chris Doyle||(3, 0)|
|Jeff Zywicki||(1, 1)|
|Neil Lundberg||(1, 0)|
|Sean Morris||(0, 1)|
|Ryan Connolly||(1, 0)|
|Bill Schell||16 (0.552)|