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Lauren Bellefontaine moved into the Princeton zone with the puck and weaved through three Tigers’ defenders with less than 90 seconds left in the overtime period. As Mariah Keopple applied pressure to Bellefontaine, the SU forward sent a backhand pass to Jessica DiGirolamo.
DiGirolamo was flanked by Princeton’s leading scorer, Maggie Connors, as she sent a backhand shot toward the net. But Tigers goalkeeper Jennifer Olnowich made the stop with her chest. As the puck fell to the floor, Olnowich used her glove to ice the puck and stop play. It was one of just three SU shots in the period, and none got past the Princeton goalie. On the other end, the Tigers couldn’t get their two shots past SU goalkeeper Allison Small.
It was a rather anticlimactic ending to a game that saw a combined eight goals, 20 penalty minutes and 68 shots between the two teams. Syracuse (6-8-4, 5-3-1 College Hockey America) never trailed against Princeton (5-5-3, 5-2-1 ECAC Hockey) but never held onto the lead for an extended period. It was the most goals the Orange have scored since Nov. 20 when they scored six in a victory over Penn State. But SU made several crucial errors that allowed the Tigers to stay in the game.
Initially, Princeton was in complete control of the game, taking the first six shots and only allowing Syracuse to take three shots in the first 10 minutes. Many of the Orange’s passes and rushes were stifled in the neutral zone by the Tigers. Over four minutes into the first period, Rayla Clemons used her speed to get past multiple Princeton defenders, but her shot was blocked by Solveig Neunzert.
The initial offensive struggles continued as defenseman Shelby Calof looked to send a cross-ice pass to DiGirolamo. But as Calof passed from the left side of the neutral zone, multiple Princeton defenders stopped it at center ice. Calof tried another pass minutes later, but the Tigers made the stop in the neutral zone.
“We were forcing passes coming out of our zone,” SU head coach Paul Flanagan said. “Trying to hit forwards that weren’t really open and in some instances, they weren’t ready.”
But after the first ten minutes, the Orange’s offense started to break through the Tigers’ neutral zone defense. Princeton forward Shannon Griffin was called for slashing after stopping Tatum White from taking a shot on net. Calof had two chances from the right side of the net, but both missed the net. Over 50 seconds later, SU had another chance on the power play. Sarah Marchand lurked behind the net and sent a pass to Abby Moloughney. Moloughney sent it back to Marchand as the senior forward moved closer to the net. Marchand then quickly got it to Moloughney, who finished the give-and-go to give Syracuse a 1-0 lead.
Marchand was credited with the assist and finished the night with a team-leading three points. And seven minutes after the first goal, Marchand would be the one to score. Clemons’ speed set up the goal as she fought for the loose puck and won possession in Princeton’s zone. Clemons then passed it in front of the goal to Marchand, who guided the puck into the right side of the net. The Orange entered the second period leading for the first time since Nov. 6 against RIT.
But the second period saw Syracuse’s lead evaporate in a span of less than 40 seconds. Seven minutes into the period, an error in SU’s line change gave the Tigers a three-on-one. Grace Kuipers didn’t pass to any of her teammates and instead drove toward the net for a shot. Small made the save but the puck went to Annie Kuehl, who fired a backhand shot into the wide-open net.
Shortly after the subsequent faceoff, Princeton regained possession and had another breakaway chance. This time, Griffin sped into the Syracuse zone and fired a shot that beat Small’s stick, tying the game at 2-2.
“We looked a little frazzled right off the bat,” Small said.
Although Flanagan said the two goals in 40 seconds deflated the Orange, they responded very quickly again thanks to Marchand. With less than nine minutes remaining in the second period, SU was on the power play after Kuehl was called for hooking. Marchand was once again standing behind the net without any defensive pressure. She then sent a pass to her left where Bellefontaine was waiting. Bellefontaine sent her shot past Olnowich and Syracuse again had the lead.
After SU again went into intermission with a lead, a Moloughney penalty in the final seconds of the period gave the Tigers an immediate edge coming out of the break. Stef Wallace had an initial chance, but it went just wide of the net. Princeton still held onto possession and Wallace had another opportunity from the center of the zone. Her second shot got tipped in between Small’s legs and the game was tied at 3-3.
But in a sign of the overall theme of the game, the Orange and Tigers weren’t done scoring. Calof had another opportunity that got stopped in front of the net. But the Orange collected the rebound and Calof’s second chance was on a wide-open net and Syracuse gained a 4-3 lead. Sharon Frankel took a shot from the right side of the SU zone 25 seconds later. Although her shot missed, Kuipers collected the rebound and scored on the open net to again tie the game. Despite both teams having multiple shots and chances down the stretch and into overtime, neither of them could capitalize, ending the offensive display in a 4-4 draw.
“It was back-and-forth,” Flanagan said. “We had the lead and gave it up and had the lead and gave it up, but we didn’t relinquish it, at least in the end.”
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