The temperature was around forty degrees at Michie Stadium at West Point and it never stopped raining from game time at 1:30 to the finish. The new age turf seemed plenty playable, but even with the rain it seemed to absorb all the velocity out of bounce shots. There were a few slips, but the rain affected the throwing and shooting more than anything. The game was tight at first, but by game end it was the lopsided score that most would have predicted. War time was fully evident as every single car was checked before entering. Serious checks too, I had to get out of my car and open the trunk, passenger door, and hood. I only mention it because if you plan on seeing any games there this year you better arrive early. Obviously with the weather, there were only a handful of spectators today, but Army vs Navy later this year will be another story. Also of note, the green balls were in use.
Army came out like a bunch of good worker bees swarming around Syracuse's net. They built up an impressive 4-0 lead over the first twenty minutes or so by doing all the little things right and being patient. The Cadets were getting all the face-offs and ground balls, but as any avid discovery channel watcher would tell you. After a worker bee stings it withers and dies. That's just what the Cadets did. They continued to play smart, ball control offense dominating time of possession throughout the game. They just didn't have the guns to get more than a few goals on a Syracuse defense led by Solomon Bliss the rest of the way. The Orangemen struggled early with the rain conditions. Players sticks obviously were bagging out on them with passes going low and shots missing the cage. No one struggled more than offensive power house Mike Powell(2,1). He had his chances early, but kept missing the cage. Give credit to Army goalie Mathew Darak for stoning him several times as well. Mike Springer wasn't feeling it either. After his first crank shot went well wide and high he seemed tentative to shoot. He still had a big day drawing attention and dishing out four assists. Stepping up for Cuse were freshman Brian Crokett (started at attack) with 3,1 and big middie Sean Lindsay who sunk four goals to pace the Orange.
Syracuse actually got the very early chances. Springer backed in on his man to the front of the cage and bounced an off balanced over the shoulder shot that hit Darak in the head. Shortly after Powell got to the front of the cage at point blank range as well, but shot wide. Cuse in bounded and Powell found Pat Hogan for a great opportunity that sailed wide. Army cleared and Cadet attackman Jeff Bryan began his work on Cuse defenseman Solomon Bliss. Bryan never really attacked the cage hard, he looked to feed. The one on one battle between him and Bliss was epic anyway. Bliss must have played one on one with him for about eight minutes by the time the game was over. Bliss handled it masterfully. He wasn't able to take the ball away, but he stayed with him the whole time and looked to be the fresher of the two as the game wound down. Whether that was psychological or physical is hard to say.
The scoring began at the 7:10 mark of the first period. Army's John Walker drove from behind to his left. When the adjacent slide came from up top he dished to middie Chris Woods for a quick step inside and a bounce shot that beat Cuse goalie Jay Pfeifer low to his left, 1-0. Bliss took a penalty with 4:05 left in the first on a push. Army didn't capitalize during the man-up, but in the confusion of players finding there men after the player was released from the box Syracuse got scored on. Bryan got the ball in the top righty crank spot and was able to take a few steps in and crank up unmolested. He threw it at Pfeifer's feet and beat him, 2-0.
The Orangemen got the next couple of chances with Powell driving from behind. First he used the "finalizer" to emerge to his left, but his jump shot was wide. He stutter stepped his way around seconds later and shot wide. Crockett then took his turn driving from behind and drew a push on defenseman Brice Roberts. On the man-up Powell slammed one off the left post from low righty crank spot and the rebound hit a ref on the far side. Cuse looked like they would take advantage when the ball was worked around to Powell quickly for him to face dodge his way into a one one one with Darak. Darak stuffed the five hole attempt. That ended the first quarter.
Cuse had another man-up chance when attackman Chris Roberts got called for a push at the 13:57 mark. Springer's big outside shot went well wide as mentioned before. Army cleared and scored. It was a slow break situation. Bryan got the ball at X and hit Mike Kamon streaking down the middle for a crank off Pfeifer's hip along right pipe, 3-0. Army continued to knock off impressive stretches of time on the offensive end. They inverted and had their middies running in circles from behind, but never penetrating. This drew the first of three or four stall calls with refs demanding the Cadets keep the ball in the box. At this point it seemed like Army might actually win the game. They were playing smart ball control offense and getting all the loose balls. Army added to their lead when Cadet middie John Ryan drove from the top of the box. He pulled the swim move bringing his stick over the top right handed. The long pole checked low and missed and stumbled as well. Ryan got within 12 yards and beat Pfeifer along the left pipe, 4-0.
Syracuse finally got on the board at the 8:38 mark. Springer stood behind the goal to his left about ten yards back from goal line extended. He found Pat Hogan for an on the run score near the top of the box, 4-1. Syracuse scored again on the man-up. John walker took a penalty at the 7:45 mark and Cuse scored at 7:15. Syracuse rotated positions a couple of times to get defense out of position and then Springer fed Sean Lindsay across the top of the box. Lindsay, from the high righty crank spot launched one that Darak got a piece of, but not enough, 4-2. A minute later Lindsay struck again with a strong right handed sweep. The slide was late and he put it in the upper right corner, 4-3. Army took a time-out to assess the situation. When play resumedBryan and Bliss were fighting for a ground ball and Bryan got a weak slash call that would cost his team. On the man-up it was an instant replay of their last. This time Steve Vallone was in Lindsay's spot to get the feed from Springer, 4-4. Army did not fold though. Bryan made up for his penalty at the 1:47 mark. He must have read the Millon story on this site about the drop step. He drove hard from X to get Bliss moving towards the net and then dropped back to give himself some time to feed unabated. He hit John walker cutting down the right side. Walker beat Pfeifer to reestablish the lead, 5-4. Moments later Crockett answered for Cuse. The youngster drove from behind to his left until he was five yards above goal line extended. He turned to the outside and bounced a right hand shot past Darak, 5-5. That's how the half ended. Everyone scurried for some warmth.
Army continued to control the ball on offense as much as Syracuse or more, but they couldn't get anywhere near the cage. Add that to a team that lacks any outside shooters and you get a long second half. Syracuse began to take advantage of fast breaks and slowly added to their lead. Crocket made it 8-5 with around two minutes left in the third quarter prompting a stick check by Army head coach Jack Emmer. The crowd oohed and awwed, but Crocket's stick passed. To add insult to injury he scored again seconds later off the face-off with 1:47 left in the third. Powell assisted his protege and the momentum was official in Cuse's favor. The entire team just lifted and suddenly the Cuse you would expect to see showed up. They were running and gunning in a rather loose fashion. Army continued to stick to their game plan of ball control, but they were totally deflated. They started passing up realistic shots despite the fact they were down with time running out.
To start the fourth Syracuse capatilized on the man-up again. Again, it was Springer to Lindsay for the outside crank, 10-5. With 12:54 Powell darted to the front of the cage just above goal line extended to goalies right. He passed three or four defenseman on the way and nobody took the body. Powell hit this one for the 11-5 lead. After another lengthy Army possession Cuse used the fast break to feed Springer all alone in front. Springer made it 12-5 and the route was on. Army got a late fast break goal by long pole Nick Auletta(gotta mention the long pole when they score) and a man-up tally to make it 13 to seven. Cuse's Kyle Olson answered both of them himself with two fast break goals to seal it and let everyone get indoors somewhere.
|Jeff Bryan||(1, 2)|
|John Walker||(1, 1)|
|John Ryan||(1, 0)|
|Marko Kostovic||(1, 0)|
|Mike Kamon||(1, 0)|
|Nick Auletta||(1, 0)|
|Chris Woods||(1, 0)|
|Matthew Darak||12 (0.444)|