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Victoria Klimek had possession of the puck behind the Penn State goal. She broke left to find an opening on Josie Bothun’s glove side. Freshman Sarah Thompson was waiting patiently for the rebound. Thompson pounced on the spinning puck and precisely nudged it behind a diving Bothun for the score.
Less than two minutes after Penn State’s first goal, Syracuse responded with a sequence of shots on goal to even the score to 1-1. After 14 trying shots from the Orange, they finally snuck the puck behind Penn State’s freshman goaltender.
In Syracuse’s (2-4-1, 2-2-1 College Hockey America) final game of a four-game set against the Nittany Lions, the Orange overcame Penn State (4-1-1, 4-1-1 CHA) 4-2 after going winless for three straight games. The Orange managed 64 shots, including 46 on goal, lifting them to victory over the Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon.
Coming off a 4-3 overtime loss Friday evening to Penn State, Syracuse’s tenacity and energy carried through all 60 minutes of their win on Saturday. Last season, the Orange were 5-1 in the second game of back-to-back series’ where they lost the first game. Saturday’s contest continued that trend and stopped one that had led to late-game meltdowns on the ice.
“For once we came out in the third, so that’s really good to see,” head coach Paul Flanagan said. “If you give us credit for the first 20 minutes, that’s a 60-minute effort, so we’ll certainly take that.”
Prior to Saturday, the Orange had scored six goals in the second and third periods — three Friday against Penn State and three in their 7-1 victory over RIT.
In its fourth game against Penn State this season, Syracuse scored in each period, including two goals in the third period. Senior Emma Polaski’s third goal of the season early in the third period gave the Orange their first lead of the night, which was one they wouldn’t relinquish.
Polaski fought for the loose puck up against the wall. She skated to the right of Bothun and quickly wristed a shot toward the net. Just as Syracuse had done in the first period, Polaski gathered her missed shot and instinctively fired a subsequent slap shot that found its way behind Bothun.
Flanagan said his players were getting “grade-A chances” and not just perimeter shots that teams can rely upon.
“We had some pretty good pressures and some pretty good jumps,” he said.
Coaches, staff and the rest of the bench felt that, eventually, one of the flurry of shots would go, Flanagan said. The team kept hoping that they’d get one and then another. The team’s pressure on the net landed four goals for Syracuse, the Orange’s highest goal total since their 7-1 win against RIT.
The Orange managed 35 shots on goal in the second and third periods, including a second period where they outshot the Nittany Lions by a 2-to-1 margin. Syracuse’s influx of late-game shots on goal was a positive sight to a coaching staff reeling from a “disappointing trend” of poor offensive production in the final 40 minutes of games.
Flanagan was delighted by the continued confidence in the team’s final game before a break until the week of Jan. 15. He hoped Syracuse had gotten the late-game sluggishness out of its system.
After three penalties in the first period, the Orange settled down and allowed Penn State to be the physical team, and it worked. Syracuse’s only penalty after the first period coincided with a Nittany Lion 2-minute roughing call.
Penn State’s third period weariness, something Flanagan attributed to this weekend being the Nittany Lion’s first series away from home, led to a crucial hooking penalty by Izzy Heminger on Jessica DiGirolamo, who was shooting.
The ensuing power play led to three shots in one minute and Polaski’s eventual power play goal that set the Orange up for victory.
Despite collecting 17 more shots than Penn State, Syracuse managed three goals before the Nittany Lions pulled their goalie with 90 seconds remaining. Flanagan gave credit to Bothun’s ability to maintain a strong presence in front of all the shots.
“I thought their kids played well. I thought (Bothun) kept them in there in the second period,” Flanagan said.
Late in the game, Syracuse missed opportunities to score on the open net. However, Flanagan said it was good for the players to have a “battle right down to the wire.”