Women’s hockey breaks seven-game winless streak

Women's hockey breaks seven-game winless streak

Orange captain Lauren Bellefontaine leads Syracuse to victory with the game-winning goal in the victory against RIT.
Published: October 28, 2022
The Syracuse women's hockey team piles on top of Sarah Thompson after she scored the game-winning goal.
The Syracuse women's ice hockey team piles on top of Sarah Thompson after scoring the game-winning goal against Mercyhurst on February 26, 2022.

Things finally clicked for the Orange (2-7-1) with a home win against Rochester Institute of Technology (2-9) after nearly a month without winning a single match.

From the opening face-off, Syracuse played fast and aggressive. Just four minutes into the game, this persistence paid off in the form of a goal scored by Orange captain Lauren Bellefontaine.

“We came out positive and played as hard as we could to start the game on the right foot,” Bellefontaine said.

Bellefontaine positioned herself right in front of Tigers goaltender Sarah Coe, which turned out to be the perfect spot. RIT defender Teryn Mozes’ shot from the blue line bounced off the right post and the puck fell to Bellefontaine, who flicked it into the net on a beauty of a backhand.

Bellefontaine has continued to add more points to her career total. Now at 87, she is only five points shy of the eighth spot on Syracuse’s career points record list.

“Tonight it came down to the fact that Lauren did the little things well,” Syracuse head coach Britni Smith said. “Winning her battles, back checking hard, and blocking shots. Those are the things that are helping her on the offensive side.”

Not long after the Orange scored the first goal, their 1-0 lead came under threat. A tripping penalty called on Syracuse defender Charlotte Hallett left the Orange shorthanded with 11 minutes left to play.

In a performance that would continue throughout the rest of the game, Syracuse’s penalty kill unit stifled every scoring opportunity Rochester could muster. It was clearly something coach Smith focused on in practice.

“Special teams has been a focus for us all season,” coach Smith said. “It’s very important for us to continue to be strong on that front.”

One of the better Tigers scoring chances of the night came with 14 minutes played in the first period. Rochester had a two on one opportunity, and forward Emma Roland tried to take advantage of it as she skated down the ice and sent the puck across to her teammate Kylie Aquaro.

It would have been a tough shot for Syracuse goaltender Arielle DeSmet to stop, but the puck never came her way. The pass went right between the legs of Aquaro, a sloppy blunder which put an end to this and plenty of other Rochester scoring chances in the game.

As play started in the second period, the Tigers continued looking for that one goal to even things up. A second penalty called on Hallett gave them a power play opportunity, but Syracuse’s penalty kill held them off.

But the Orange were not out of the clear yet. Just after the Orange returned to full strength, Rochester forward Lexi Sung cut into the slot and fired off a shot at the net. DeSmet managed to pluck the puck right out of the air to preserve her team’s lead.

DeSmet made many other important saves to protect the one goal cushion, and is coming off a two game stretch in which she recorded 70 total saves for the Orange.

“It’s nice that she got a shutout tonight,” coach Smith said. “She really deserved it.”

The final period of play was a defensive clinic by the Orange. Rochester’s effort wasn’t lacking, but Syracuse simply outplayed them.

It appeared the Tigers might finally get their long awaited goal with eight minutes left to play in the game. Rochester forward Athena Vasdani skated down the ice with only Syracuse defender Hannah Johnson between her and DeSmet. As Vasdani tried to maneuver into the slot for a good look on net, Johnson showed her skill as she sent the puck out of harm’s way with a well executed poke check.

“I thought we were pretty strong on defense tonight,” coach Smith said. “The back line did a good job keeping pucks in front of them and allowing our forwards to go to work.”

The final whistle sounded bringing an end to both the game and Syracuse’s winless streak.

The Orange will be focusing on improvements for Saturday’s rematch against Rochester at 7:30 p.m.

“We know we still have a lot of work ahead,” Bellefontaine said. “It was a huge two points, but we’re gonna watch film tomorrow and take away the positives from it and learn from the negatives.”