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Jacob Buttermore scored last Saturday for the first time in 359 days. Situationally, the goal was meaningless. It was just the Orange’s second goal of the game which came within the final minute of the first half, pulling the Orange within 12 goals of Notre Dame in what would eventually be SU’s worst loss since 1977.
On Thursday against UAlbany, Buttermore reached another milestone, only this time it was something he had never achieved in five seasons with the Orange. Buttermore earned his first career start and did not wait to make an instant impact.
Syracuse trailed less than two and a half minutes into the game, conceding a point-blank shot from just above goalie Bobby Gavin’s crease. So less than 30 seconds later, Buttermore and the Orange attack decided to curate an identical play. SU routinely worked the ball behind the net to Mikey Berkman, but instead of working it all the way to the left wing, he immediately fed an unmarked Buttermore five yards from goal to slot home the early equalizer.
Head coach Gary Gait said he stepped up. “He took advantage of his opportunities and he shot the ball well today,” Gait added.
Buttermore was important for Syracuse (4-6, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) in its narrow 14-12 loss at UAlbany (4-5, 3-1 America East). With the Orange dealing with a large number of injuries and absences from their starting lineup, Buttermore, who finished Thursday’s game tied for a team-high three points, scored a hat trick, making up for UAlbany’s heavy defense on SU’s most productive attackmen.
Buttermore knew he was going to get the start on Thursday, the day after Syracuse’s 16-goal loss to Notre Dame, he said. For the first time in his career, Buttermore was working ahead of a game knowing he was going to earn his first-ever collegiate start.
He’d spent the previous three seasons as a second-line midfielder, during which Buttermore had accumulated 29 points. This season, Buttermore appeared in 6-of-8 games, with just a goal against the Fighting Irish and an assist the week before against Duke as his only two points of the season. On Thursday, Buttermore took five shots, which is the number of shots he took in Syracuse’s previous two games. Three of them went on goal, each shot finding the back of the net.
Buttermore’s second goal came minutes before the half when Syracuse trailed by two goals for the first time all game. As he’d been receiving the ball all game, Buttermore was in a long-stick matchup on the left side of the net. Instead of running toward the middle of UAlbany’s zone, he dodged to his right, darting in toward the crease and shaking his man to create space to make the score 6-5 as he found the right corner.
Then he pulled Syracuse within one again after scoring off a feed from Brendan Curry, taking a step-down shot that beat UAlbany goalie Will Ramos.
With Tucker Dordevic being routinely double-teamed and “face-guarded,” Gait said, Syracuse relied on Buttermore and its secondary scoring, Gait said, since Curry and Owen Seebold also got off to slow starts.
But that was something that affected Syracuse all night. It outshot the Great Danes by 22 total shots, although the shot on goal margin was just two shots in SU’s favor. Up until the fourth quarter UAlbany didn’t take one shot that went wide, while the Orange took 17 that missed the net completely, with six of them coming from either Seebold, Curry or Dordevic. While Buttermore took just five of SU’s 52 shots, he was the team’s best finisher for the majority of the game, as he became the Orange’s first player to a hat trick.
“You just have to move on and keep shooting at the net,” Buttermore said regarding another inconsistent shooting performance from Syracuse. “Eventually they’ll fall but today that didn’t happen so it couldn’t go our way.”
As SU crawled its way back from a five-goal deficit midway through the third quarter, it scored on four of its final 10 shots of the frame to pull within one. Two of those goals came within the final minute, with the first being a man-down goal. The goal inspired a final possession capped off its four unanswered goals and 10 unanswered shots.
And once again, it was Buttermore in the slot, receiving the ball from Curry. Buttermore immediately dodged his defender, which freed up enough space to generate a step-down shot to make the score 11-10, as Syracuse trailed by just a goal for the first time in over 15 minutes.
It was a spark Syracuse needed, especially fielding a lineup with a starting core plagued by injuries. Griffin Cook missed his second consecutive game, Lucas Quinn and Dami Oladunmoye missed their fourth and Tyler Cordes — who had been Quinn’s replacement — missed Thursday’s game due to illness.
Syracuse’s midfield has shifted around all season, too, especially with Owen Hiltz’s preseason injury, which prompted Gait to move Curry to the attack in his place. So Buttermore earned his first shot to establish himself on the top line after playing behind such players for five seasons. And to Gait, it shows promising signs toward SU’s depth especially as its schedule features all ranked opponents to close out its final five games.
“It seems like every game we lose someone or we’re short a player here or there, so we’re just shallow,” Gait said. “We’re trying to get those guys experience and up to speed, and it’s tough to come in and it’s not one player, it’s not two, it’s three or four or five that you replace, and it just makes it difficult.”
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