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Syracuse was on the power play 12 minutes into the second period when Kristy Pidgeon took control of an unclaimed puck on the left side of the rink in her own half. Pigeon carried the puck into Syracuse’s half on a counterattack, but Jessica DiGirolamo was waiting for her in what looked like a one-on-one opportunity.
Before DiGirolamo knew it, Sydney Pedersen and Alexa Vasko joined the rush for Mercyhurst, making it a three against one with goaltender Arielle DeSmet in net. Pidgeon drifted to the left and passed in the middle to Pedersen, who sent it over to Vasko on the right before DiGirolamo or DeSmet had any time to react. On her first touch, Vasko ripped the shot to the upper left corner, past DeSmet, to put the Lakers up 2-0 in the second period.
The goal was one of several defensive miscues Syracuse (5-8-3, 4-3-0 College Hockey America) suffered against Mercyhurst (13-5-2, 4-1-0 CHA) in its 3-0 loss on Friday.
Mercyhurst came out aggressive, and notched the first shot almost six seconds after the opening faceoff, but DeSmet saved Vasko’s shot, forcing a faceoff. The Orange kept the puck on Mercyhurst’s side and took three shots in a row but had no luck. Mercyhurst quickly countered with two shots of its own, but DeSmet saved both.
A minute later, however, Mercyhurst took an early lead off a Chantal Ste-Croix goal off an assist from Pidgeon. The Orange lost possession of the puck in Mercyhurst’s half, and the Lakers quickly moved the puck to the center of the ice. Three SU players swarmed in to collapse on Pidgeon, who dished the puck off to Ste-Croix on the left side.
Ste-Croix took the puck down the left side of the wall and before Abby Moloughney — the closest defender at the time — could close in to Ste-Croix, she pulled her stick back and launched a shot to the upper right corner of the net past DeSmet to put Mercyhurst up 1-0 a little over five minutes into the game.
For the rest of the period, the Syracuse defense held strong and prevented Mercyhurst from scoring. After SU went on a run with three shots of its own, none of which went in the net, Mercyhurst countered, but this time, Shelby Calof blocked the shot. Hannah Johnson blocked the next two shots from the Lakers, but the blocks were not enough as all three shots were still on frame, forcing DeSmet to make saves.
In the final minutes of the first period, Jersey Phillips had a shot on net for Mercyhurst, but DeSmet blocked it. Mercyhurst continued its aggressive play and crashed the net after a shot, but DeSmet saved the second and third chances from Marielle Parks, allowing Syracuse to earn two shots before the period ended in an attempt to tie the game.
The Orange let up 20 shots early in the first, giving the Lakers several easy looks on net. Out of the 20 shots, Mercyhurst managed to get all 20 on goal.
“A lot of times they were throwing (the) puck up, getting it on net, and then all three (of Mercyhurst’s) forwards were driving there,” Moloughney said. “We didn’t have anyone driving to stop them.”
Slightly over a minute into the second period, Emily Pinto took advantage of a loose puck at the center of the ice. With no Syracuse defenders back, she had a one-on-one fast break opportunity against DeSmet.
Pinto carried the stick right outside the goaltender’s box and shot it, but it went straight to DeSmet, who deflected it to keep it a one-score game.
In the seventh minute of the period, Sara Boucher got a penalty for roughing, so Syracuse shifted its attention to offense and took the next five shots on a power play. But Mercyhurst came back strong when the numbers were even on the ice and took the following five shots, all of which DeSmet saved.
On the night, DeSmet had 43 total saves, reaching a career milestone of 1,000 saves. Her efforts weren’t enough, though, as Mercyhurst eventually broke through for its second goal of the night on a failed power play from Syracuse. SU gave up 24 shots in the period and couldn’t convert on any of its three power plays, finding itself down 2-0 heading into the third period.
Syracuse collapsed in the third period after Mercyhurst kept on attacking the Orange with an aggressive offense. Twelve minutes into the period, Mercyhurst took five consecutive shots and finally got one in when Boucher took a long shot from the right side.
DeSmet blocked Boucher’s shot with her glove but couldn’t grab it, so Vanessa Upson snuck in behind the Syracuse defense and took advantage of the close range shot by tapping it in to put the Lakers up 3-0 and ice the game.
“It’s really disappointing,” head coach Paul Flanagan said of the loss. “I think our backs are to the wall in terms of getting league points.”
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