Syracuse hockey drops first game back from break

SU loses to RMU 2-1

Hannah Johnson scores first career goal in 2-1 loss to Robert Morris.
Published: January 22, 2021
Hannah Johnson of Syracuse Women's Ice Hockey vs. Robert Morris
Syracuse freshman defenseman Hannah Johnson waits in the neutral zone while play stays in the Orange's offensive zone. Johnson scored her first career goal against RMU on Friday, Jan. 22, 2020.

In a rematch of last year’s CHA semifinal matchup, Syracuse took to the ice against Robert Morris looking to beat the same team that took them out of championship position. Unfortunately, a 2-1 loss was not the result the Orange were hoping for in the first of two weekend games.

Last March, just before many sports were paused due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, Syracuse finished their season with a loss to Robert Morris in the playoffs; RMU lost in the championship game. Now, under a year later, the two teams met again. This time, the Orange were missing a few key pieces, most notably head coach Paul Flanagan, who missed only his second ever game at Syracuse due to non-team related COVID protocols.

The Colonials came out strong, registering three shots on goal before Syracuse got one off. The Orange kept pressure in RMU’s zone, and Tatum White had a good look early on, but it bounced off the crossbar and into the corner. Both teams played evenly matched games through the end of the first period despite this being the Orange’s first game in over month and Robert Morris coming off a win last weekend.

Syracuse sent seven shots towards Robert Morris’ goalie, while Allison Small saved five of the Colonials’ chances. Lauren Bellefontaine and Sarah Thompson won a combined seven faceoffs, and Robert Morris only won one in the first period.

The Colonials did manage to stay out of the penalty box, while the Orange saw three penalties to three different players before the end of the first frame. Kristen Siermachesky was called for cross-checking nearly eight minutes into the game, followed by a tripping penalty on Anna Leschyshyn with over five minutes remaining. Both early penalties were killed off successfully, but White was called for a weak slash with just seven seconds left on the clock, giving Robert Morris a man-advantage to start the second period.

There was limited action early in the middle frame, save for an injury scare for RMU and a referee cutting his finger. With 13:57 on the clock, Victoria Klimek took the puck down ice on a breakaway, but the CHA’s December Player of the Month was denied. A little over 30 seconds later, freshman Rayla Clemons tapped the puck away from an RMU forward at the blue line and skated down ice and sent a shot of her own into the Colonials’ goalie’s pads.

It was Robert Morris who finally scored first near the halfway point of the game. With 12:14 remaining, Anjelica Diffendal skated down ice on a breakaway of her own and shot over Small’s shoulder to put the Colonials up 1-0.

Keeping with the trend of the first period, Syracuse spent time down a man again when Mae Batherson was called for interference. Still, the Orange played a strong game. Bellefontaine sent a pass to Abby Moloughney who sent a shot soaring on the breakaway, but RMU’s Raygan Kirk stood on her head like she had against Syracuse’s other opportunities.

The second period ended with Robert Morris still ahead one goal despite a fair number of attempts from the Orange. Both teams sent more shots in the direction of their opposing goals, but Syracuse held a tight 24-23 lead in shots on goal. Hurting the Orange in the second were faceoffs, going into the break with 22 won and 22 lost, allowing for the Colonials to win 21 head-to-heads in one period alone.

After over two periods of play, four-and-a-half minutes into the third, RMU finally went to the box with a slashing penalty on Joelle Fiala. The Orange kept pressure on Kirk and the Colonials, keeping the puck in the zone for over a minute before a Robert Morris player sent it along the boards to the other end of the ice.

The powerplay was what Syracuse needed to get on the board. Freshman defenseman Hannah Johnson scored her first career goal from near the blue line to tie the game for the Orange and turn the momentum back in Syracuse’s favor. White and Leschyshyn recorded the assists on Johnson’s goal.

Just when things were working in Syracuse’s favor, Maggy Burbidge slipped a shot past Small and gave RMU back their one goal lead, putting the Colonials up 2-1 with 9:11 remaining in the game. The Orange couldn’t muster another goal and the seconds ticked away as RMU took home the 2-1 victory over Syracuse.

Jessica DiGirolamo of Syracuse Women's Ice Hockey vs. Robert Morris
Syracuse senior Jessica DiGirolamo skates behind the RMU net after recovering the puck and sending it to a teammate up ice.

Robert Morris edged out Syracuse in shots on goal, with 34, and faceoffs won, with 36. Bellefontaine was the only Syracuse player to come away over .500 in faceoffs, wining 14 and losing 13.

Siermachesky blocked four shots in front of Small, while Jessica DiGirolamo and Bellefontaine each had three apiece. A small victory in Friday night’s loss was the Orange’s penalty kill, which went four-for-four against Robert Morris.

“Traditionally, Robert Morris has had a tremendous powerplay; it’s been a big reason for their success in the last 5-6 years,” said associate head coach Brendon Knight. “Our girls did a pretty good job of executing our PK and anytime you can go four-for-four against Robert Morris, it’s definitely a moral victory.”

Knight noted that, usually, when you win the special teams battle you win the game, but that wasn’t the case for Syracuse on Friday. Still, the team saw the close loss as a learning opportunity, hindered by some jitters caused by the extended break.

“Our rust definitely showed,” said Knight. “As the game went on, I thought we got much better. We were puck watching a lot, and that’s where they got a majority of their offensive chances. Puck watching is usually one of those things that happens when you’ve been off for forty days.

“We’ll look to tighten up even more tomorrow and I think we’ll be in a good position to get two points.”

Syracuse takes on Robert Morris again Saturday, Jan. 23 at 3:00 p.m at Tennity Ice Pavilion.

Avatar for Alyssa Hertel

is the Sports Lead Producer for The NewsHouse.