SYRACUSE, New York-In a rivalry that has truly blossomed in the past five to ten years, Syracuse was bumped by Virginia, 12-11 at the Carrier Dome. The run-and-gun nature of these match-ups erupted in the second half, with bodies and shots flying all over the field. The game was exciting throughout, with neither team leading by more than three at any point, but the young Syracuse offense was out gunned by an experienced Virginia attack, who took home a big win.
Virginia junior Matt Poskay opened up scoring on the afternoon, flipping in an underhand shot as Syracuse senior goalie Jay Pfeifer was caught out of position. Junior Matt Ward added another a little over a minute later to give Virginia the early 2-0 lead. Senior Jarrett Park made up for his sloppy play a week ago by getting the Orange on the board. Park drove, lost the ball, got it back, drove again, and finally scored beating Virginia freshman goalie Kip Turner high. Orange junior Greg Rommel tied the game on a man-down goal off of an assist from junior Brett Bucktooth. Both teams were riding very aggressively, and much of this game wound up being played in between the restraining lines. Each team took advantage of uneven situations and attempted to press quickly up and down field. The defenses played well on both ends of the field. Many balls got away from the offense as players threw lazy passes, and defensemen threw accurate checks. Both goalies looked sharp too, exchanging some big saves in the first half. Syracuse freshman Mike Leveille tried to whip a quick shot in traffic that Turner snagged. Then Virginia sophomore Drew Thompson charged up field on a clear and slipped right through a double team. He threw a few stick fakes before shooting, but Pfeifer had it read all the way, and Thompson got pummeled after the shot. The quarter ended in a 2-2 draw.
Senior offensive star John Christmas tried to get the second quarter going for the Cavaliers. His feet just flew on the turf; he seemed almost faster than Mike Powell was. Often Christmas would drive from behind and meet a double team, leaving other Cavaliers open for shots. The Cavaliers attempted to run their offense from behind the cage. They drove from X, trying to draw defenders down and pass topside for shots. Other times they would establish shots on the wing by rocking the ball back-and-forth between the wing and behind attackmen until an angle good enough for the shot was created. Both goalies stood their ground making strong saves and getting help from great checks being thrown by the defenses. The Orange ran their offense more from the wings, trying to set up drives from either side and having guys cluster in front of the cage and then breakout for cuts and shots. Rommel gave Syracuse their first lead of the game when he drove from behind and shot a low bouncer that got between Turners legs, but not before Rommel took a hit. The defenses were finishing off checks and slides and making sure shooters felt pressure before, during, and after shots. Rommel’s goal was quickly answered when Virginia junior J.J. Morrissey caught a pass about 5 feet in the box and bulleted the ball over to senior Brendan Gill sitting on crease. Gill, younger brother of Virginia great Conor Gill, slipped the ball around Pfeifer before getting dropped.
The big match-up today was between Christmas and Syracuse sophomore defenseman Steven Panarelli. It was one of the toughest assignments yet for the young defenseman expected to be an eventual defensive standout for this team. For most of the day Panarelli shut Christmas down, but when Christmas did beat him, he made it count. Panarelli attempted to rob Christmas on an overhead check out in front, and Christmas made him pay. Christmas slipped right under the long pole, and drove right at the cage. Two weak slides came at him, and he was able to pop the ball right into the off stick side close corner, putting Virginia back in the lead. Pfeifer then made an acrobatic save as melee erupted in front of the Syracuse crease. Pfeifer saved an outside shot, but the rebound got away. He then dove and tumbled back across the cage to make a save on the rebound shot. A few hard checks and scattered bodies later, Orange senior Andrew Boyle broke out of the pack and up field with the ball. Bucktooth came into a roll, not just as a feeder for the offense, but an impressive shooter too. On a one-minute man-up for the Orange, Bucktooth got a pass from junior Brian Crockett, and standing about 3 steps inside the box, dropped his stick and fired a nasty low to high shot into the off stick side corner. But Virginia tallied another when junior Kyle Dixon drove down the right side and beat Pfeifer to the opposite corner while on the run. Syracuse had the ball with four seconds to play and Desko, who loves to design the last second shot, called a time out. But the coach’s musings did no good as sophomore Danny Brennan started with the ball, just to have it checked out of his stick before being able to do anything with it. The first half ended with Virginia on top, 5-4.
Brennan started the next half by finally beating Virginia senior Jack deVilliers on the face off, but Brennan lost the ball to a good check. DeVilliers owned the first half face-offs, holding an 8-2 edge. He is a face-off specialist who has started as the face-off middy for the past four years, boasting some impressive winning percentages while doing so. Virginia got the scoring started in the second half when junior Jared Little fired a shot from about 15 yards out that beat Pfeifer low. The Cavaliers got another easy goal when Pfeifer made a good save on Thompson, just to throw the ball right into the stick of junior Matt Poskay, who quick-sticked the ball right in for a goal. Syracuse quickly answered when Park tore down field and found Bucktooth sneaking around from X on the backside. Park flung over a pass that Bucktooth jumped for and flicked in. The Orange could have had an easy goal. Syracuse won the face-off, and drove down for the shot. Turner made a big save, but then made a bad play coming out on a lose ball and was caught out of cage. Mike Leveille scooped up the ball and had an open cage (sans the defenseman standing in it) to shoot at, but instead he passed down to Crockett who was standing off crease. Crockett got leveled by junior defenseman Michael Culver and was not able to get off a shot. The pace picked up in the second half. Ward added a goal for Virginia when he drove, shot, got his own rebound, and flicked in the shot, beating Pfeifer low. But Bucktooth answered that with a rebound goal of his own. A pass was thrown at him while he cut to crease. The ball bounced off Bucktooth’s stick, then off Turner, and back into Bucktooth’s stick, letting him stuff in a goal.
Brennan and senior Geoff Keough began getting into the head of deVilliers, as the domination he exercised in the first half turned the other way, with Syracuse winning many more faces than Virginia. Christmas scored on a Dixon assist, firing a shot that beat Pfeifer, again to the near-side post. A violent face-off erupted after this goal, in which players from each team dealt some vicious checks and the ball remained loose for almost 30 seconds, before Syracuse senior defenseman Scott Ditzell scooped up the ball, just to carry it all the way down the field and lose possession on an ill advised shot. Ditzell played a strong defensive game, throwing some devastating checks and disrupting many passes, but his offensive success last week (he scored a goal) made him a little hungry for the cage. Crockett did what Ditzell couldn’t, grabbing a ball in front of the cage and scoring with it. Crockett got another when Leveille kicked him the ball on the wing, and Crocket proceeded to drive to crease and stick a shot to the high off stick corner while falling from getting hit. The third quarter ended with Virginia still enjoying a 1 goal lead, 9-8.
Senior Jake Plunkett started Syracuse’s fourth quarter push when he grabbed a ball on the face-off and carried it into the box. He turned to the sideline looking for his usual offensive replacement, but when he realized how open he was only 10 yards out, he fired a shot that beat Turner low. Dixon lost the ball for Virginia on a dumb failure to advance penalty. He simply didn’t step into the box, but sauntered around the restraining line waiting for the offense to set up. Rommel attempted to close the gap, making a few nice spin moves and bouncing a shot that rattled the post, just to get the rebound and have Turner save it again. Sophomore Steven Brooks got Syracuse back on the board when he blasted a cannon of a shot from about 20 yards out that beat Turner to the top left corner. Ward also answered for Virginia when he put a spin move on Orange freshman Matt Hatton that made Hatton fall, giving Ward the wide open run at the cage. But Ward tried to take the top, nearside corner and Pfeifer had the shot read all the way.
Poskay increased the Virginia lead when he snuck around his defenseman and cut towards cage, grabbing a pass and netting a running shot to the off stick side. Ward converted his next chance to score, taking a shot from the outside and sending it through a mess of screens, letting in bounce low and around Pfeifer. A few turnovers exchanged the ball at midfield several times, but Virginia remained up by one. Plunkett fired a shot that Turner got a piece of, hit the pipe, and then bounced about 60 feet up in the air. Bucktooth grabbed the ball on its way down and was neck tied, putting Virginia in the box for 30 seconds. Bucktooth tried to capitalize on the man-up, taking another ripper from the top spot, but Turner saved it, and rushed a clear the other way. Christmas got the ball on the clear and pressed his mismatch with John Wright. Christmas beat Wright to the post and tucked in a goal, putting the Cavaliers up by two. Syracuse tried to close the gap, but several rushed shots from bad angles or under pressure did not help. Crockett seemed to decide he was not going to be denied a goal. He got the ball at X, drove from behind, tried to roll on his guy, and finally dropped his stick and plugged the ball right into the stick side top corner with a 1:17 remaining in the game. Park got the ball after the next face-off, but rushed a little too fast and lost the ball. Some how in the tumultuous race to grab the lose ball Desko got a timeout with possession, allowing him to set up the game tying play with 61 seconds left. Crockett started with the ball on the end line, and it was eventually worked to Park, who drove and fired a shot that was saved, but the rebound went out of bounds. Virginia sophomore Ricky Smith made the biggest play of the game by chasing down the shot and winning possession for the Cavaliers. Though the call was questionable (Crockett was right there with him, it looks as if Crockett may have even won) it helped seal the win for Virginia. The play typified the hustle battle all day, with each team really working for every ball, but Virginia chasing more shots and getting more ground balls. Virginia ran a successful clear up the field and killed the last 28 seconds without incident, the ball appropriately enough ending in the offense’s leader, John Christmas’s, stick. The game ended, Virginia the victors, 12-11.
The final scoreboard showed how evenly these teams were matched, with Virginia taking a one up edge in shots, 38-37, face-offs, 14-13, and goals. The real difference for Virginia was in cage. After they lost their senior emotional and defensive leader in goalie Tillman Johnson, freshman Kip Tucker stepped up huge for the Cavaliers, making 18 saves, compared to 9 for Jay Pfeifer.
Syracuse can take from this some more confidence in Bucktooth, who became a two dimensional threat by showing off his impressive shot. Crockett also looked like more of an offensive leader now, really trying to strap the team on his back at the end and get a goal. But the overall youth of this Syracuse club showed up with some poor shooting and a real lack of poise.
The victory is a huge win for Virginia. They were ranked sixth in the nation and beat the second rank Orange in the Dome. The game lived up to the standards of other exciting match ups that have fueled a rivalry cultivated maybe 10 years ago.
Virginia plays Princeton at 7 next Saturday night, at home in Charlottesville. Syracuse travels to Carson, California to play Georgetown at 7:30 (pacific time) Saturday night. The game will be held at the Home Depot Center in an attempt to cultivate the sports growing interest on the West Coast.
|Brian Crockett||(3, 1)|
|Brett Bucktooth||(3, 1)|
|Jarett Park||(1, 1)|
|Greg Rommel||(2, 0)|
|Steven Brooks||(1, 0)|
|Jake Plunket||(1, 0)|
|Jay Pfeifer||9 (0.429)|