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In Syracuse’s first home game of the season on Thursday, a celebration of women’s sports at Syracuse for the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the stands were packed with Syracuse fans. In the opening faceoff, Lauren Bellefontaine fed off the energy and snatched the puck from Caitrin Lonergan on Clarkson. But that was the only positive start for Syracuse.
Instead, Syracuse (0-2-1) remained winless on the season in a 3-2 overtime loss against Clarkson (3-0-0) due to defensive struggles and failure to control loose pucks that were available throughout the game. Despite 34 saves from Robert Morris transfer Arielle DeSmet, Lonergan’s final dagger in overtime was enough to end the game.
The Orange’s defense looked lethargic in the first period, which put them behind for the rest of the game. Syracuse struck its first shot from defensive player Jessica DiGirolamo, but the attempt went over the goal, flying into the safety net above the glass in the rink. DiGirolamo had two more chances in the next two minutes, one where she missed and another that was blocked by Clarkson’s Stephanie Markowski.
Syracuse’s offense then went on a hiatus as Clarkson began to overpower the Orange. The Golden Knights took advantage of a lack of defensive pressure from Syracuse, tallying seven straight shots and keeping the puck on Syracuse’s half of the rink.
DeSmet was able to handle the pressure early on, saving four of those shots. But Clarkson kept the pressure on Syracuse, and in loose puck situations where players on both teams swarmed the puck near the wall, the Golden Knights escaped with the puck in one of their players’ sticks each time.
At one point Bellefontaine had the puck behind the net attempting a build up play from the back, but it worked against her favor when she lost the puck and Lonergan took it from her in the seventh minute, forcing Syracuse to make a quick transition back to defense. This led to struggles from the Syracuse defense up until about the ninth minute, as it let Clarkson manage three more shots that either missed or were saved by DeSmet.
Even when the Golden Knights were down a player due to a hooking penalty, Syracuse struggled to take control of the game. In the 11th minute, a cluster of players was trying to win a 50-50 puck on Clarkson’s side. But SU failed to win in the scrum, as the puck launched out of the cluster and to Clarkson’s Haley Winn. Luckily, Syracuse forward Tatum White intercepted a pass in what could have been a fast break score.
White’s positive play was short-lived, as nearly a minute later Clarkson won a faceoff and created two opportunities for shots. DeSmet saved the first shot, and forward Sarah Thompson blocked the second, but DeSmet and the defense eventually cracked after not being able to secure the rebound and counter, when Laurence Frenette possessed the puck right outside of the scoring zone and tapped in a shot past DeSmet to put Clarkson up 1-0.
Clarkson continued its relentless pressure at the end of the first period, taking shot after shot and winning loose puck after loose puck, but Syracuse stopped the bleeding at 1-0 heading into the second period, despite being outshot 12-8.
“We were a little tentative in the first period,” head coach Paul Flanagan said. “Maybe a little nerves, I don’t know.”
DeSmet was once again subject to pressure with two quick shots from the Golden Knights right away. On the second shot, Clarkson’s Baylee Kirwan out-paced Syracuse’s defense down the sideline. Frenette got the puck and put a shot right on DeSmet, who made her 14th save of the game.
Syracuse showed progress throughout the second period as at one point Golden Knight Nicole Gosling made a cross-rink pass to Gretchen Branton, who had one defender in front of her in a two against one situation. Syracuse defender Mae Batherson read the situation and intercepted the pass, giving Syracuse the puck back five minutes into the second period.
Five minutes later, Bellefontaine snagged the puck on Syracuse’s side of the rink, dishing it to Sarah Marchand. Marchand made a long give-and-go pass back to Bellefontaine, who snuck behind the Clarkson defense and had a one-on-one with the Clarkson goalkeeper Michelle Pasiechnyk. She crossed the puck twice and sent it to the back of the net to tie the game in the 10th minute of the second period.
Syracuse still dominated offensively, outshooting the Golden Knights 6-3 after winning a faceoff in the 13th minute. But in a defensive mishap, Brooke McQuigge took advantage of a fast break with a Syracuse defender, and with room to shoot, she launched the puck into the far left corner of the net. DeSmet was caught watching the puck go into the goal, allowing Clarkson to regain the lead at 2-1.
In the third period, the Orange’s defense was able to turn the game around in their favor. Also, thanks to the offense and a power play, the team was on Clarkson’s half of the rink for most of the period. The Orange outshot the Golden Knights 24-15 and earned five more faceoffs.
White was able to notch her first goal of the season as she controlled the puck around three Clarkson players and skated by them for the score. White’s goal tied the game at 3-3, forcing overtime.
But any momentum that Syracuse built in the third period quickly died off, as the Orange looked like they did in the first period. Clarkson put pressure on early and recorded the first shot of the period. Eventually, the Golden Knights started passing the puck around, and Syracuse players were slow to react and defend Clarkson.
The Orange almost lost just a minute into the overtime period, when Winn took a shot that hit the pipe and was inches away from crossing the line. But less than two minutes later, DeSmet couldn’t hold onto the puck, which let Lonergan tap it into the net, handing Syracuse lost its second loss of the season.
“I think tomorrow we’re just going to regroup at practice and go through all the things we did wrong and all the things we did right and then just bring it to (Clarkson)” DiGirolamo said on preparing for the rematch Saturday.
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