Men’s hockey works overtime to clinch ESCHL championship
Men's hockey works overtime to clinch ESCHL championship
On March 17, the Syracuse Orange men’s hockey team clinched the ESCHL championship with a double-overtime win over the Liberty Flames. The hard-fought win served to be a fitting conclusion to a wild weekend for the team, as all three games ended up being decided in overtime.
For the Orange, game one was against the NYU Violets. According to senior team captain Connor McNamara, there was some bad blood between the two teams after an incident that occurred last season. In a game that saw SU lose to the Violets in overtime, the Orange became involved in a skirmish with NYU fans. The incident led to the Orange being suspended from all activities, ending their season early.
“There was no way that they were going to end our season this year,” McNamara said.
Despite SU’s confidence, the game got off to an inauspicious start, as the Orange found themselves down 4-0 at the end of the first period. SU forward Peter-Owen Hayward was able to break the shutout at the start of the second before the Violets extended their lead to 6-1 with goals from forwards Brandon Ritchey and Mason Gallegos.
“Some of us might not admit it, but we might have started to hang our heads a little bit because we felt like we kind of blew it,” Cuozzo said.
Though their backs were against the wall, the Orange managed to dig their way to a 7-7 tie with defenseman Stephen Bressi netting the equalizer. After two grueling overtime periods, SU junior forward Owen Herrington found the back of the net and secured an incredible 8-7 comeback win for the Orange.
The semi-finals game against the Stony Brook Seawolves served to heavily contrast with the Orange’s previous high-scoring matchup against NYU. After two periods of play, the Orange found themselves down 2-1 with only seconds remaining in the third. With 13.9 seconds to go, the Orange were granted a penalty shot after Stony Brook forward Devon Palmieri covered the puck with his glove at a mad scramble in the crease. SU forward Hayward beat goaltender Richard Shipman with a backhand and tied up the game. The Orange, once again, headed to overtime.
“We and our coach (Treacy) put a lot of emphasis on really starting from the drop of the puck and starting as hard and fast as we could because we want to end it early,” Cuozzo said of SU’s overtime strategy.
The Orange made good on their coach’s tactics and made quick work of Stony Brook. SU forward Trip Franzese slipped a shot underneath Shipman to propel the Orange to the championship game against the Liberty Flames. Franzese’s goal came after only one minute of overtime. Team captain Connor McNamara said Franzese managed to pull off the goal despite suffering back problems from an earlier injury.
The championship game started off back and forth between both teams. After some close offensive efforts from both sides, junior defenseman Chaydan Lauber shoved the puck underneath Cuozzo’s pad during a scramble and the Flames opened up scoring. At the second period, senior SU forward Joseph Pucciarelli scored in a similar fashion to tie up the game.
Liberty started the third period strong with a goal from forward Jordan Bochinski. After several close attempts, the Orange managed to once again tie the game with only seconds remaining. With 23.5 seconds to go in the third, SU junior forward Matt Jacobs took a pass from senior defenseman Bressi and tapped the puck underneath Flames goaltender Joshua Halpenny.
The first overtime period came to an end. Both teams found themselves exhausted but determined to leave the arena with the championship. Throughout overtime, Cuozzo stood on his head and made various key saves to keep the Orange’s hopes alive. By the game’s end, he had stopped over 70 shots.
“I was seeing the puck well,” Cuozzo said. “I just told myself, ‘This is your last game. You have to battle. You have to compete. I’m going to try to be an animal out there.’”
With four minutes to go in the second overtime period, McNamara took a shot in the slot that whistled wide before being picked up by Jacobs. Jacobs wrapped around the net and streaked a pass right towards McNamara’s stick.
McNamara connected, snapping the puck over the fallen Halpenny to win the game and the ESCHL Championship for Syracuse. Instant pandemonium set in for the Orange. The teammates threw their sticks, helmets and gloves into the air while celebrating on their end of the ice.
For McNamara, this goal was his first after a 17-game cold streak. According to the team captain, the ending to his final season with the Orange could not have been scripted any better.
“To beat a team like that, one of the top ten teams in the country, in overtime and to have that goal…I don’t know if it even registered in my mind until a few seconds after it went in,” McNamara said. “It was definitely a huge moment.”