SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Blowing a six goal lead in six minutes isn’t advisable. But regardless, Syracuse was still able to top Albany in overtime, 14-13 at the Dome Friday night.
After the game, Orange players smiled. They laughed. They were happy with the win. They weren’t visibly upset with the close call. They were enjoying the moment. It’s now five straight wins for SU, and players are happy about it. Even so, there was some air of concern.
“That’s two games in a row we’ve had a team and we’ve let them come back,” said attack Joe Yevoli. “I know a lot of people on the sidelines were biting their fingernails a little bit. We didn’t play tight defense, we didn’t play good offense. We just let them back in the game and it’s something we gotta work on in the next two games. It’s just something we gotta work on come playoff time.”
But things never had to turn out that way. The No. 13 Orange (6-4) came out of the gate like it was practice. It was one goal after another for SU. Pat Perritt got things started just 56 seconds in, rolling to the far side from the top of the box and firing a low shot into the opposite front corner of the cage.
At the 11:10 mark of the first Brian Crocket whipped a shot low. It turned out to be a pass, as Yevoli came up with the ball on the other end, firing a point-blank shot by Brett Queener’s tied hands.
It was at the 9:14 mark when Brett Bucktooth hit the stat sheet. The senior lurked behind the cage as Kenny Nims worked on the near side. Rolling down towards the net, Nims drew the defender on the far side leaving Bucktooth free to creep up next to the far post. The freshman saw the opening, feeding Bucktooth for his first of four goals on the night. The same set-up would come in handy later – possibly in OT.
The Orange closed the first quarter up 5-0 after Yevoli tallied his 2nd of the contest and 100th of his career. Yevoli is the second Orangeman to notch 100 goals this year. Brian Crockett did it earlier in a win over Loyola.
‘Cuse continued to roll in the second and it showed in Albany’s expression. At the 7:32 mark defensive middie Nathan Kenney scored his third goal of 2006 on an off-balance shot, standing on one foot and falling forward. The score made it 8-2 Orange and Albany’s back-up keepers began tossing on the sidelines. The reigning JUCO National Player of the Year, Queener, was seen leaning on his stick with his arms folded and legs crossed. The Danes had lost their bite.
But Albany (No. 20; 6-6) would go into the locker-room on an upswing. With 0:55 left in the half Jordan Levine came out of a timeout and beat Steve Panarelli to the inside. Levine was left with a clean look and capitalized. The score was 8-4 at the break.
A trend would continue throughout the third quarter, though. Every time Albany would tally a goal the ‘Cuse would come right back with an answer. Frank Resitartis made it 8-5 early, just to watch Bucktooth record his 50th career goal and re-extend the lead on the EMO.
Once again, the Danes had an answer. Four-and-a-half minutes later, Matthew Green notched his first of the game unassisted. But then things got sticky. With 2:42 to play in the quarter Albany face-off man Dan Barnes was hit with a one-minute unnecessary roughness penalty for a knock he put on Craig Hammond while leaving the field. Albany coach Scott Marr admittedly didn’t get a good look at the play, but argued passionately with officials. He argued so passionately he was rewarded with a two minute, non-releasable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his efforts. The combination put Syracuse two men up.
The Orange, three for seven on the EMO, capitalized. Otto’s offense worked the ball around until Mike Leveille dropped a low rip for his 50th career score. The situation was a demonstration of the game’s physicality – a hot topic of discussion after the game.
The sophomore’s tally was the last of the quarter and sent SU into the fourth frame up 10-6. That’s when things got interesting. Syracuse would open its biggest lead at 12-6 when Crockett cranked a Leveille pass by Queener.
After trading another goal apiece, Albany rattled off six goals in just over six minutes to even the score at 13 all. It seemed as if the goals never stopped coming for the Danes as some came mere seconds after those before them. The daggers were goals by Chris Martoochia, his first, and Derek Dale, his third. Martoochia’s score brought the Danes with one at 13-12, igniting the Albany fans. The atmosphere was like that of the Hobart game – the game SU hadn’t lost in 19 years. A vocal section of Albany fans donned purple and yellow and erupted as the deficit grew smaller. By the way, since the schools began playing in 2004, the Orange is 3-0 against the cross state rival.
Martoochia rolled from the top of the box, speeding his way right around Steve Babbles. Beating the sophomore left Martoochia one-on-one with SU keeper Peter Coluccini, who he beat.
The game-tying score came all of 16 seconds later. Off the face-off, Merrick Thompson fed Dale for the crank atop the box.
Albany won the ensuing face-off, but coughed up the ball, giving SU a chance late. After two timeouts, Crockett ran a play, but came up short and the game went to OT.
Flashback: SU won its last game against Rutgers after blowing a lead in the fourth quarter. The Orange won on a Leveille score with three seconds remaining in OT.
The capitol dwellers came out hard, testing Coluccini immediately, but the keeper came up with the last of his 17 quiet saves and handed the ball to the Orange O.
“When that (such a comeback) happens, you really can’t do anything defense,” said Coluccini. “You just have to get a stop and get the ball to your offense.”
The offense then ran its course. With 2:20 to play in the extra quarter, Joe Yevoli drove in from the top. Looking for a shot, the defense smothered the UVa transfer. Here’s where Bucktooth’s earlier play comes in. The Onondaga native crept up the side of the 6x6. Yevoli saw his teammate and passed to him. Bucktooth, fighting through his defender, wrapped around the cage and touched the ball to the net while falling forward. Sound familiar? SU won, 14-13.
“I just slid behind him and guys were able to make great passes and I found myself one-on-one with the goalie and just dumped it in,” Bucktooth said. “Taking the ball hard to the net, making my man commit, that’s a big part of our offense – drawing the double, making the guy come to you and have the off-ball guy get open.”
“I pushed out a little bit,” said Yevoli. “The ball came to me…I didn’t think I’d be able to get a shot off. I just gave it to him and he was right there on the doorstep to finish.”
As excited as the Orange was to win, Albany was disappointed with the loss, but not as much as you’d think.
“As much as it’s frustrating, it’s kind of also encouraging to go down six goals and get doubled up on against a team like Syracuse,” said Martocchia. “Many teams in the country don’t have a chance to come back. But we have confidence in our offensive power. Defense is capable of being stingy at points. As much as this loss hurts, we’re going to look forward knowing we made a run.”
One thing missing for Albany: Merrick Thomson. The junior had five goals against SU a year ago, but recorded not one in 2006. He was covered by SU’s Kyle Guadagnolo for most of the game.
“They were making it tough for him to get home,” said Marr. “He’s a finisher for us and we have to do a better job getting to him the next time somebody shuts him down,”
As for the Orange, the mood in the press room wasn’t angst over a close win. Players joked and seemed to be having fun. It’s a stark contrast from the down-and-out SU team seen after a 9-8 loss to Hobart several weeks ago.
“This team doesn’t quit,” said Panarelli. “We haven’t quit. We haven’t put our heads down. We battle. We battled again today. We battled against Rutgers and we’re going to keep fighting.”
Some of what’s led to the recent Orange success includes leadership and gelling. The SU leadership has been strong, coming from seniors such as Bucktooth, but most of all the team has begun fitting its pieces together to form one.
“We’ve all been more comfortable with each other,” said Orange head coach John Desko. “Peter’s a first year goal tender. The defense is getting better. The unit is doing a good job defensively. Joe (Yevoli) is a first year player here at Syracuse…Just the whole thing is coming together.”
The Orange will keep battling next Saturday in the Dome against No. 11 UMass. The Minutemen knocked the Orange from the NCAA Tournament last year, ending SU’s streak of 22 straight Final Fours.
|Joe Yevoli||(4, 2)|
|Brett Bucktooth||(5, 0)|
|Mike Leveille||(1, 4)|
|Brian Crockett||(1, 2)|
|Kenny Nims||(0, 2)|
|Patrick Perritt||(2, 0)|
|Dan Hardy||(0, 1)|
|Nathan Kenney||(1, 0)|
|Peter Coluccini||17 (0.567)|