SYRACUSE, N.Y. – It was fitting. Syracuse fans awoke Saturday morning with temperatures sitting at a cool 37 degrees. As everybody knows, revenge is best served cold.
It was just about a year ago. The Orange strolled into Richard F. Garber field looking to extend its streak of consecutive Final Fours to 23. Syracuse fell down early and played almost the entire game from behind. With 3:06 to play, then junior Brett Bucktooth tied things up at 15, but Sean Morris tallied the UMass winner with a bouncer by keeper Jay Pfiefer. The Minutemen won 16-15. The dream was done. The ride was over. Fittingly, the Syracuse run ended at 22.
Fast forward one year. The Orange got its revenge. Syracuse topped the Minutemen, 12-7 at the Carrier Dome.
Overshadowed by the newborn “rivalry” were Saturday’s “Senior Day” festivities. This year’s SU team boasts 14 seniors, including starters, Joe Yevoli, John Wright, Brian Crockett and Brett Bucktooth. But, Crockett and Bucktooth didn’t start their senior game. Head coach John Desko said it had a lot to do with some of the tensions leading up to the game.
“Some of the comments they made publicly I didn’t think were appropriate and we talked about that before the game,” said Desko. “I think they heard what I was talking about and they learned from that and as a result they didn’t start.”
The four senior starters combined for 84 of the Orange’s 171 points this season, but it was a freshman who got things started. Pat Perritt wasn’t around to see the streak of Final Fours end a year ago, but he certainly knows about it. The freshman attack’s brother, Bill, wore Syracuse orange through two national title runs, so for Perritt one could say it was personal.
With just 59 seconds gone by, Perritt dodged to the inside of his defender on the far side top of the box, launching a bullet to give the Orange (No. 12, 6-4) the early 1-0 lead.
About 40 seconds after checking into the game at the 11:21 mark, Bucktooth made his presence felt. The Onondaga native found Mike Leveille on the top of the box. The super soph fired home the high shot on the EMO.
With a 2-0 lead against the nation’s fourth best goalie (by save percentage) in Doc Schneider, things seemed to be going very differently from the last time these two squads left. However, things got very different very quickly. With 3:21 to play, already in a 2-2 tie, Morris cut through three Orange defenders and beat Peter Coluccini and give UMass a 3-2 advantage.
After some nice ball movement, UMass (No. 9, 9-3) would find Brett Garber for his 15th of the season, making the score 4-2 at the end the first quarter. That’s the same mark after one quarter of play in the last meeting between the two squads.
“We got off to a good start,” said Desko. “Then UMass did a good job being patient with the ball and coming up with a few face-offs. I think the possession time had to be pretty good in their favor.”
One problem for SU early was that face-off X. Jon Jerome went three for seven on face-offs in the first quarter, allowing UMass a 16-5 shot advantage early on. The face-off troubles continued into the second against two-time All-American Jack Reid. Jerome got pulled to start the second, but John Carrozza did no better, going 0-2 in the first half. The Orange ended the second quarter wining just four of 14 face-offs.
None of that seemed to bother the second quarter Syracuse offense. With 11:59 to play, Bucktooth worked his way towards the cage, pushing on his defender from the outside. When he got within about 10 yards, a clean shot developed and Bucktooth capitalized, pulling the Orange within one.
Just over a minute later, freshman Matt Abbott tallied the tying goal for the Orange, which would never look back. On the ensuing possession, just 46 seconds later at the ten minute mark, Steve Panarelli checked the ball loose, picked it up himself and led the break down field. Stopping at least 20 yards out, Panarelli opted to do it himself. The junior long-pole cranked a shot from at least 20 yards away, giving Syracuse a 5-4 lead and causing the Carrier Dome fans to erupt and rise to their feet.
The team joked after the game. Desko brought to Panarelli’s attention the open men downfield. The defenseman backed himself up, saying the scouting report said shoot high. He had.
Massachusetts’ Sean Morris would respond, recording his second goal on the day to tie things at five, but a Brian Crockett goal, followed by Pat Perritt’s second gave the Orange a 7-5 lead at the break.
The Perritt goal was really an exclamation point on the second quarter for SU, which outscored the Minutemen 5-3 in the period. Streaking down the field, Perritt took the dump off pass from Yevoli and hammered the shot home as he approached the goal doorstep. By the way, he shot it around his back, reaching his left hand across his back to shoot. The momentum would carry into the second half.
“We came out in the second half and did a good job adjusting on the face-off,” Desko said. “As a result we were able to put more pressure on the UMass defense and the goaltender. I thought we played well.”
Just three goals would be recorded during the third quarter, and two belonged to Syracuse.
Garber got things started for UMass, notching his second of two scores. Brian Jacovina got the assist on the cross-field pass to a wide-open Garber on the nearside post. Jacovina finished with four assists on the stat sheet.
The Orange lead grew to 8-6 after Joe Yevoli cranked home an outside shot off a rebound. The original shot came from freshman Kenny Nims. Schneider made the save, knocking the ball into the air. A scrum ensued, with the ball ending up in the UVa transfer’s stick for the score.
The lead would be 9-6 on Bucktooth’s second of three goals on the day. The senior captain launched one, man-up, from 12 feet away for his 24th of the year.
Bucktooth would complete the hat-trick on the game’s next score. With 5:50 to play, Right off to the left of Schneider, Bucktooth faked around the goalie’s abdomen, instead going over the top for the easy point blank score and the 10-6 lead.
“The hat-trick’s just a bonus,” said Bucktooth,” It’s the team win that matters. We’re keeping our win streak alive, building up confidence as we go. I think for everyone hear, individual accolades don’t matter as much as a win in the end.”
The score would finalize at 12-7 after Brian Crockett recorded an empty netter for Syracuse and Jim Connolly beat Orange back-up Casey Rotella for UMass. All-told, the Orange scored 12 goals of the sticks of eight players, but the most important thing for SU didn’t seem to be the revenge over the Minutemen, it seemed more to be continuing the now six-game winning streak it’s built these past few weeks.
“We’ve preached all week that that’s (revenge) not our main focus,” said defenseman John Wright, who held Morris, the nation’s leading points scorer, to just two goals. “We’re thinking about the streak that we’re on…and invalidating that four game losing streak by winning out.”
By the way, senior day turned out pretty good. Bucktooth got his fifth consecutive hat-trick to go with one assist, Crockett tallied two more, Yevoli had one of his own plus an assist, and fellow UVa transfer Nate Kenney assisted a goal as well. Add to that Wright’s defensive play on Morris.
There also was something of a changing of the guard, per se. Freshman scored three goals (two by Perritt and one by each Abbott and Dan Hardy). The redshirt freshman keeper Coluccini came up with another decent game for himself. He made nine saves, including five in the second half, leading the defense to one of its best performances of the season.
The defense surrendered four goals in the first quarter, then proceeded to give up a goal per quarter after that.
“I think a lot of that had to do with what we talked about early in the season,” Desko said. “We need to possess the ball in our offensive end of the field. Win face-offs, which I think we did a better job of that in the second half…I thought we played pretty good individual defense after the first quarter.”
But no matter how you spun it, the revenge factor was still there, and the Orange got theirs, but are now looking ahead.
“It’s nice to get back at them a little bit,” Panarelli said. “We got one game left. We gotta go down to Colgate and get a win, and it’s May. We don’t lose in May. That’s the thing here. We’re not done yet. We’re happy with the win, but it’s just another win.”
The Orange will travel to Colgate next Saturday, May 6th, for a date with the Red Raiders in the regular season finale.
|Brett Bucktooth||(3, 1)|
|Brian Crockett||(2, 0)|
|Mike Leveille||(1, 1)|
|Patrick Perritt||(2, 0)|
|Joe Yevoli||(1, 1)|
|Matt Abbott||(1, 0)|
|Nathan Kenney||(0, 1)|
|Steven Panarelli||(1, 0)|
|Dan Hardy||(1, 0)|
|Peter Coluccini||9 (0.600)|
|Casey Rotella||2 (0.667)|