Syracuse captures 1st-ever conference title over Robert Morris behind 4-goal second period

first_img Published on March 8, 2019 at 6:47 pm Contact Danny: dremerma@syr.edu | @DannyEmerman Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img BUFFALO — All season, Syracuse players felt the weight of the program’s history bearing down on their shoulders. Eleven years, and no titles to show in its six-team league. In the dressing room, they’ve talked about the shortcomings of past teams, remembering the previous stars who couldn’t break through, the ones that “paved the way,” captain Allie Munroe said. But in the final moments in Friday’s College Hockey America championship game, every player on the Syracuse bench bounced up and down, anxious for what they had been waiting for all season. Two years after hockey came to Syracuse in 2008, the Orange reached the College Hockey America finals in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011. They lost both to Mercyhurst. Then, in 2015 and 2016, all-time points leader Stephanie Grossi’s team lost two-straight opportunities in the title game again. The Orange had reached the championship game six times, and lost each one. Finally, Syracuse’s 2019 team, one fueled by a decade of losses in pursuit of a conference title, got to sprint off the bench. Players launched their sticks and gloves in the air and piled onto each other, burying redshirt senior Brooke Avery at the bottom. Behind goals from Avery, Kristen Siermachesky, Lauren Bellefontaine and Savannah Rennie, Syracuse (13-21-3, 10-8-2 College Hockey America) rode a four-score second period to a 6-2 victory over Robert Morris (16-14-6, 13-4-3), and its first ever NCAA tournament berth. It took the Orange 11 years, but this installation of Syracuse — one that didn’t win a nonconference game and came into the CHA tournament with just 10 wins — paved its own way. “We got here for a reason. Three games in three days, we conditioned all the way to February for a reason,” Munroe said. “And that pays off at the end, it paid off today.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBefore jumping onto the ice, and pulling together a run that cemented its win, SU jumped out to an early lead. Allie Olnowich scored on a fluttering wrist shot from the blue line that snuck past RMU’s goalie Arielle DeSmet nine minutes into the game. Though the Colonials tied it up with 34.5 seconds left in the first, DeSmet’s time in the net wouldn’t last much longer. Then, SU’s offense exploded. Eight minutes into the second period, Avery won a puck in the neutral zone and fired a wrist shot, which went wide but bounced back off the boards. Siermachesky slotted the rebound in and effectively retook the lead for SU. Siermachesky, who’s played defense her whole SU career, scored just her second career goal, both against RMU. The sophomore’s been up top since returning from an upper body injury last week because defensive pairs — her replacements — developed chemistry in her absence.“Then we just had to keep the offense rolling,” Siermachesky said.Courtesy of SU AthleticsMinutes later, Avery flashed through the point, slapping her stick on the ice to ask for the puck. DiGirolamo heard Avery’s voice “out of the corner of my right ear,” DiGirolamo said, and delivered a tape-to-tape pass. Avery, the longest tenured player on SU, finished the one-timer through the five-hole, making it 3-1. Unlike the team that only won 12 of its 37 games prior to Friday, Syracuse didn’t let up. As the Colonials tried to mount a comeback, or atleast stop Syracuse’s offense, Munroe rushed through the zone and found Rennie with a backhand pass for an easy score. Munroe had been dreaming of winning the CHA for four years, she said, and her score gave the Orange a three-goal margin. “We got our sticks on them,” DiGirolamo said, “and they had no chance.” As the second period dwindled with two minutes left, Bellefontaine picked up a loose puck in the slot. The CHA Rookie of the Year fired a wrist shot for the Orange’s fourth-straight goal of the period. When Robert Morris retreated to its locker room, it trailed 5-1 and substituted DeSmet out of the game. After beating Mercyhurst for the first time in the playoffs last night, Syracuse players said they thought this team was special, different than the others. Seniors didn’t put as much pressure on themselves as they did in previous years, freshmen played like veterans and role players changed positions midseason for the good of the team, they said. Head coach Paul Flanagan said this team had an “edge” ones before lacked. An edge that others lacked in his decade-long quest for a conference title.Syracuse proved Flanagan’s belief right throughout the game and especially in the final frame. Winning loose pucks. Blocking shots. Sacrificing their bodies to stop odd-man rushes. Physicality SU lacked earlier in the season, not finishing off then-No. 2 Clarkson at home and blowing a two-goal lead to RIT earlier in the season. A night after making 28 saves, Ady Cohen stopped 26 of 28 shots, each one of them slowing Robert Morris’ offense from matching the Orange’s offensive production. Syracuse held onto the lead in the third and eagerly waited for the buzzer to sound.“There was 30 seconds left and we were counting down,” DiGirolamo said “Then there were 10 seconds left and my leg was already over the bench, I was ready to go.”The one constant with SU’s hockey program — all 11 years of its existence — has been Flanagan. Avery called winning the conference title for Flanagan the team’s “biggest motivation” this season. “To see Paul raise the trophy was unreal,” Siermachesky said. “This guy’s put every single thing, every second of his life into this team and truly believes in us.”As Flanagan hoisted the hardware over his head, some players nearly hugged him. Others yelled at the sight. Flanagan’s been on the bench for each championship heartbreak. This time, instead of consoling his team, he finally celebrated with them.“Holding that up there, that’s for all the kids that didn’t get a chance to.” Flanagan said. “We carry that torch, the kids that are here now.”last_img

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