SU ice hockey can’t capitalize on power play opportunities, drops third in a row

SU ice hockey can’t capitalize on power play opportunities

Arielle DeSmet's efforts in goal fall short in 2-0 shutout loss to Mercyhurst.
Published: February 10, 2023
Penn State forward Eleri MacKay scores on goaltender Arielle DeSmet to put the Nittany Lions ahead 3-0.
Penn State forward Eleri MacKay scores on SU goaltender Arielle DeSmet to put the Nittany Lions ahead 3-0 during a match on Feb. 4, 2023.

After a defensive zone faceoff win at the end of the second period, Mercyhurst’s Mary Kromer swiftly took the puck up the right side of the ice. Meanwhile, her teammate Sydney Pederson gained a step on the two Syracuse defensemen as she glided into the offensive zone.

All Pederson needed was a solid saucer pass and she’d be alone with the goaltender.

She got just that, kicking the puck from skate to stick on the feed from Kromer. A nifty move to the backhand fooled Syracuse goaltender Arielle DeSmet, and Pederson deposited the puck into the back of the net.

Pederson’s goal would end up being the game-winner for Mercyhurst (16-13-2, 8-3-2 CHA), securing a 2-0 victory and remaining undefeated against Syracuse (9-20-2, 6-8-1 CHA) this season.

In a contest that featured 15 penalties, the penalty kill on both sides managed to keep it a low-scoring affair. Syracuse had seven opportunities on the power play, but couldn’t cash in.

“When you’re asking the same people to kill penalties time after time, it wears you down,” SU head coach Britni Smith said. “We couldn’t use our bench as much, and it definitely interrupted the flow of our game.”

Syracuse wasn’t able to generate much offense despite the power plays, and the team has now scored just three goals in its past five games. The Orange were outshot 25-20 and although she was tagged with a loss, DeSmet had a save percentage of .960. 

DeSmet’s goaltending kept Syracuse in the game, which was scoreless until the 19:20 mark in the second period when Pederson scored for Mercyhurst. In net, DeSmet is creeping up on the Syracuse single-season saves record at 946. After tonight, DeSmet is up to 806 saves this season.

“(Arielle DeSmet) really picked it up in the past couple of weeks and I’m really thankful for her at times,” Syracuse defender Hannah Johnson said. “She came up big tonight.”

Mercyhurst was able to prevent SU from establishing a presence in the offensive zone in most of the power play chances the Orange had. When Syracuse did get set up, shooting lanes were closed off. Many of the scoring opportunities for the Orange came on bouncing or ricocheted pucks in too tight on net for them to capitalize. 

Sarah Thompson, always a presence on the offensive end, perhaps had the best chance for Syracuse all night. With a Lakers defender to beat in the first period, she dangled past her to set up for a good look at the cage. With just the goaltender to beat, Thompson whistled a shot, but it was shouldered away.

Like this chance, many of the Orange shots were one-and-done with the Lakers taking over possession and skating the puck away before any sustained pressure could mount any momentum for Syracuse. 

Physicality dominated play for all three periods of action. Penalties oftentimes stacked on top of one another, resulting in plenty of 4-on-4 play, and disrupting the flow of the game, Smith said.

“We want to play physical, get bumps and pins wherever we can on the ice,” SU forward Tatum White said. “It was really good to see, but the refs were calling everything tonight, so it’s not something we’re really going to change.”

Additionally, the Orange weren’t afraid to lay the body on the line, blocking a game-high 17 shots. It didn’t translate into any offense though, as Syracuse stays winless in its last five games. 

The Orange host Mercyhurst once again tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. to close out regular season play in the CHA.