SYRACUSE N.Y. – Peter Coluccini walked into the press room and sat down next to team co-captain John Wright. Wright looks at the stat sheet and points. Coluccini looks on. Wright smiles and pats his goalie on the arm. The day was his, and the win belonged to No.13 Syracuse, 7-5 over No.6 Princeton.
The redshirt freshman recorded 19 saves against the Tigers, allowing just single-digit goals for the second time in two games. Just when people thought it could get no better, (Coluccini’s save percentage against Loyola was 71%) it did. Against Princeton (5-3) he tallied a save percentage of 79%.
As Coluccini walked into the pressroom, he sat down and took off his gear, revealing a Superman t-shirt underneath. That actually didn’t happen. Coluccini already had his gear off, donning a plain green shirt, but if it had happened, nobody would have been surprised. That was the atmosphere in the room. Smiles all around, with head coach John Desko in the joking mood.
“I don’t know if anybody noticed that we kept moving the goal with the bigger pipes to our defensive end of the field, and moving the one with the smaller pipes to the other end of the field,” Desko said. He paused, and as the next question was asked, he intervened. “That was a funny.” The room laughed with him.
But in all seriousness, Dekso was extremely impressed with his young goalie.
“I thought Peter did a terrific job,” Desko said. “He had really good position in goal…He did a really great job reacting, seeing the ball very well. I thought he got to the ball very quickly…just as they (Princeton) were winding up to shoot, he was moving his stick to where he thought it was going.”
But Coluccini’s performance wasn’t just your average 19 saves. It was numerous goals scored that he ripped from the clutches of the Tigers. At one point the SU keeper blocked three consecutive shots in a span of seconds, and time after time, came away with point blank attempts, like it was second nature.
“I have no clue how I made all those saves,” Coluccini said. “In the heat of the moment you just react to the shots.”
Coluccini wasn’t the only one playing defense. The defense did a pretty good job too, again, holding its second straight opponent to single-digits. After the game Wright said the team doesn’t want to play with its backs against the wall. He explained that fellow defenseman Steve Panarelli said ‘Don’t play like you have to win – Play like you want to win.’ That, he believes, was a key to the victory.
Offensively, Syracuse (3-4) put together one of the best games Princeton had seen all season. This was a Tiger team that earlier in the year defeated defending national champion Johns Hopkins 6-4. Coluccini’s counterpart, Alex Hewitt, had a save percentage of 68%, giving up just over five goals a game. But against SU, his save percentage fell to a still respectable 56.3%. That number is often good enough to win ballgames. But it wasn’t on this day.
At the half, things went as expected. The score was just 2-1, with SU on top. Joe Yevoli got things started just over two minutes in. Working on the outside and rolling around his defender to face the net, he fired a shot just as he saw the cage and landed the ball in the far bottom corner.
Princeton tied it up at the 4:12 mark of the first quarter when freshman Tommy Davis was found by Tewaarton candidate Scott Sowanick moving across the front of the net and past it. Davis shot off his back foot and past Coluccini.
The 'Cuse would have the last laugh of the first half, when, with 13:35 to play, Dan Hardy cut through several defenders and launced a shot into Hewitt’s breadbasket. The goalie kicked out the rebound, picked up by Mike Leveille and put into the cage.
The Orange would add three goals to its 2-1 lead as the third quarter began. Hardy would record his first assist of the game, as he tossed the ball across the net to Brett Bucktooth on the near side. Bucktooth then finished the play for his tenth goal of the year.
A minute later, Panarelli, milliseconds from being shellacked from behind, threw a pass to leaping John Carrozza on top of the box. Upon touching his feet to the ground, he fired a rocket into the top of the Princeton cage. That goal came with 11:30 to play.
The frustration in Tiger players became evident after Brian Crockett cranked his 101st from 15 yards away. Princeton’s Zachary Jungers slammed his long-pole into the Carrier Dome turf, hanging his head in disgust.
Whitney Hayes would end the third on a high note, beating Coluccini with 1:17 to play and pulling Princeton back within three, 5-2. The play took the ‘Cuse goalie out of the net for the remainder of the quarter. No word on what happened to the goalie, but Jake Myers made one great save in his spot. Coluccini returned for the rest of the game.
With just under five minutes into the fourth, Leveille pulled off an old trick from high school. Guarding tightly on the inbound, the sophomore came up with the Tigers' ball and found Bucktooth in front of the net. The problem for Princeton was that while Bucktooth was in front of the goal, Hewitt was not. It was an easy empty netter, and the crowd erupted.
That put SU up 6-2. It would go up 7-3 when Leveille hit Bucktooth again. The native Onondagan was wide open after Panarelli led the Orange on the break. The long-pole ran into the far corner and dished off to Leveille. He eventually found the senior captain.
The Tigers tacked on two final goals late to finalize things at 7-5.
“There’s nobody who respects Syracuse more than I do,” said Tiger head coach Bill Tierney. “The kids love to play lacrosse, and they do what they have to do…they did what they had to do. We didn’t.”
Syracuse did what it had to do. It changed how it played. The “fun and gun,” high octane offense turned into a patient one for the Orange. SU became patient. It worked the ball and found the open look, doing its best to play around Princeton’s stingy defense.
“When we play this team, we normally see scores being lower for both teams, at least for our team,” Desko said. “We expect that kind of game, and we have to take advantage of our opportunities.”
By the way, two-time Tewaarton winner Mikey Powell was in attendance. The Orange is now 2-0 with the former attack looking on. Desko said a ticket will be left for him as the 'Cuse takes on Cornell at 7pm Tuesday.
|Brett Bucktooth||(3, 0)|
|Mike Leveille||(1, 2)|
|Dan Hardy||(0, 2)|
|Steven Panarelli||(0, 1)|
|Joe Yevoli||(1, 0)|
|Brian Crockett||(1, 0)|
|John Carrozza||(1, 0)|
|Peter Coluccini||19 (0.792)|
|Jake Myers||1 (1.000)|