Syracuse hockey struggles in 2-1 loss to Robert Morris

RMU hockey sweeps weekend series against Syracuse

The Orange had issues containing the Colonials, who left the weekend series with two wins in the CHA matchup.
Published: January 23, 2021 | Updated: January 24th, 2021 at 8:29 pm
Allison Small of Syracuse Women's Ice Hockey celebrates vs. Robert Morris
Syracuse goalie Allison Small keep an eye on the opposing players as the puck travels along the boards behind her crease.

Less than 24 hours after their last game, the Syracuse women’s ice hockey team was back on the ice at Tennity Ice Pavilion looking for redemption following their 2-1 loss to Robert Morris on Friday night.

Friday’s game saw the return of junior defenseman Shelby Calof and sophomore forward Madison Beishuizen, both of whom had been out since the beginning of the season. Also back on the bench Saturday was head coach Paul Flanagan, who, on Friday, missed only the second game of his Syracuse career.

Syracuse’s Sarah Thompson won the opening faceoff and, after some back-and-forth, Abby Moloughney fired a strong shot down the middle into Colonials’ goalie Raygan Kirk’s pads. Like with game before, the Orange came out skating strong, but that energy seemed to fade quickly, as some skaters appeared sluggish even before the halfway point of the first period passed. The two teams exchanged shots for some time before any other action in the game.

Seven-and-a-half minutes into the first period, it was Robert Morris who was called for the game’s first penalty when Wasyn Rice was whistled for holding. Last night saw Syracuse sent to the box first, and the team struggled to stay out of trouble – getting four calls to RMU’s one. Their bad habits followed them into Saturday’s game as well. Less than 30 seconds after RMU killed off their first penalty, Syracuse handed them a man-advantage when Hannah Johnson was sent to the box for interference.

Nearly a minute after that penalty was killed, Syracuse and Robert Morris each sent a player to the box. Those penalties were successfully killed by both teams at 15:08. At 16:39, Anjelica Diffendal sent the puck to Allison Small to give the Colonials the 1-0 lead heading into the final minutes of the opening frame.

With three minutes remaining in the first, Anna Leschyshyn was sent to the box for slashing, and Syracuse held their breath while they killed their third penalty.

The one-minute warning echoed through the arena, and then, with 47 seconds ticking down to the period-ending buzzer, the Orange turned the puck over at center ice to Emilie Hurley. Hurley skated toward the Syracuse crease on a breakaway – something SU struggled to prevent in Friday’s game. Without her defenseman alongside her, Small dove for a daring poke check, pushing the puck towards the boards and out of reach of Hurley to prevent RMU from going into intermission with a two-goal head start.

The second period had far less excitement than the period before, and Syracuse managed to stay out of the box for nearly the whole period. That streak came to an end when Moloughney was called for hooking at 16:23 – matching Friday’s total number of penalties in less than two periods.

Despite killing off the penalty, it only highlighted their struggle to keep sustained pressure on RMU’s side of the ice – even strength or not. The Orange’s longest stretch of time in the offensive zone came in the final minutes of the middle frame, but they struggled to control the puck enough to get shots on net that would fool Kirk. Syracuse went into the second break still down 1-0.

Marielle McHale of Syracuse Women's Ice Hockey celebrates vs. Robert Morris
Syracuse's Marielle McHale (23) battles with a Robert Morris player to gain control of the puck in front of the Colonials' net.

At the start of the third period, it was evident that both teams were tired, but Robert Morris showed slightly more life, which could be because they played more games in January going into the weekend series. But 7:15 into the frame, the Orange were given a man advantage when Joelle Fiala was sent to the box for tripping.

Syracuse’s lone goal on Friday came on a powerplay in the third period, also when the Orange were down by just one goal. But they were not as lucky this time, as the Colonials killed it off with ease. Things were looking up yet again for SU; Robert Morris’ Ellie Marcovsky was called for holding shortly after the first kill. On the other side of the ice, Syracuse was staying out of the box.

With 5:37 left on the clock, a lucky bounce left the puck vulnerable in Kirk’s crease, and a hungry Syracuse team capitalized, pushing the puck behind RMU’s goalie for what appeared to be the game-tying goal. After a lengthy official review, the goal stood and cheers erupted from the Syracuse bench, desperately trying not to leave the weekend dropping both games. Leschyshyn was credited the goal, assisted by Emma Polaski.

Syracuse Women's Ice Hockey celebrates vs. Robert Morris
Syracuse celebrates Anna Leschyshyn's goal late in the third that tied the game for the Orange against Robert Morris University.

The Orange’s joy didn’t last long, with Marcovsky scoring the go-ahead goal for Robert Morris just 32 seconds later. RMU kept the puck away from Syracuse, for the most part, and skated out the remainder of the period to end Saturday’s game in eerily similar fashion to Friday’s – with a 2-1 victory coming late in the third.

Unlike last game, Syracuse and Robert Morris were equal in both shots on goal with 36 a piece, and faceoffs won with 28 going to each side. Lauren Bellefontaine was 13-10 on faceoffs, and Brynn Koocher was above .500 as well with a 5-4 record at the dot. Calof’s return was certainly felt in today’s game, as she led the team with four blocked shots in front of Small.

Moloughney was held off the scoreboard but fired pucks with incredibly accuracy, with all eight of her shots making it through to Kirk.

Small had a strong night, but it wasn’t enough to pull her team ahead in Saturday’s game. Flanagan gave her credit, and wasn’t shy in saying that her performance may give the rest of the team false confidence.

“To be honest with you, I think she gives the team a lot of confidence knowing that, if Allison’s playing like this, we’re going to be in every game regardless of who we play or, sometimes, how we play,” said Flanagan. “But I don’t know if it maybe gives the kids a false sense of security. ‘I can make a mistake or whatever and Allison’s going to be there.’

“We have to support her more. We’re relying on her too much. It’s great that she’s playing well but I’d like to think we can minimize grade A chances, so she doesn’t have to stand on her head and make a lot of grade A saves. That’s something we have to work on.”

Syracuse returns to play on the road next weekend against Mercyhurst on Friday, Jan. 29 & 30.

Avatar for Alyssa Hertel

is the Sports Lead Producer for The NewsHouse.