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Less than three minutes into the third period, Syracuse’s Kambel Beacom was called for interference after colliding with RIT’s Chloe McNeil. The Orange won the penalty kill’s opening faceoff and attempted to dump the puck out. But Tiger defenseman Athena Vasdani stopped the clearance and sent a pass to Kyla Bear.
Bear’s slapshot was blocked by SU’s Lauren Bellefontaine who deflected the puck toward the net. The puck tipped off Shelby Calof and slid between Arielle DeSmet’s legs to give RIT a 2-1 lead. The Orange had outshot the Tigers 36-8 by this point, despite trailing in the final period of regulation.
The goal was one of the Tigers’ 12 shots on goal, 40 less than the Orange on Friday. Despite the overwhelming amount of shots Syracuse (14-10-6, 11-4-1 College Hockey America) took throughout the 3-2 overtime victory against RIT (2-27-4, 1-12-3 CHA), SU still struggled to make stops and convert offensive chances in the second and third periods. The Tigers were able to score twice on five power play opportunities against an SU team that had allowed the fewest penalties and power-play goals in College Hockey America.
Abby Moloughney’s first of three goals came 32 seconds into the game, which led to a dominant opening period for Syracuse. In the first 20 minutes, the Orange controlled most of the possession and outshot the Tigers 18-2. SU had multiple open looks and saw its top line take multiple shots. But this was also the case for the second and third lines as Hannah Johnson, Sarah Thompson and other bottom-line skaters found scoring chances.
“Our first period probably wasn’t our strongest,” Bear said. “But we’ve always come back with our second period, and our third period was phenomenal.”
The first minutes of the second period followed the same script as the first period, with the Orange outshooting the Tigers. But the game was already starting to get more physical. On multiple plays, there was still pushing and shoving between the two teams. Midway through the second period, Bailey Kehl took a shot that DeSmet stopped and used to ice the puck with multiple RIT players in front of the crease. DeSmet shoved one of them away, and as the physicality increased, SU began making more mistakes.
Syracuse had a power play chance after Moloughney drew a body-checking penalty. The best chance on the man-advantage came when Jessica DiGirolamo set up a wrist shot from the top of the zone. Her shot was a little high but Sarah Coe eventually made the save. After the whistle blew, a scrum ensued and players on both teams started to fall to the ice.
In the mix, Madison Primeau cross-checked Kehl and immediately got sent to the box. While the Tigers were unable to convert on Primeau’s penalty, they drew two more Syracuse in the next four minutes, a stretch of play DiGirolamo described as “a slow 10-12 minutes” for Syracuse.
Victoria Klimek was called for hooking three minutes later and the Tigers put a goal on the board. Jordan Marchese took a shot from the left side that got deflected as RIT kept the pressure on Syracuse. But less than 40 seconds later, both Marchese and Calof were called for offsetting penalties and the game moved to four-on-four hockey.
The Tigers started with a shot from Bear, who was standing in her typical left zone position. DiGirolamo had stationed herself in front of DeSmet and blocked Bear’s shot. But RIT’s Abby Davies stood nearby on the rebound. Davies’ first shot was saved by DeSmet, but she picked up a rebound and buried her second attempt to tie the game.
Davies’ score started a stretch of play for the Orange where they couldn’t generate offensive opportunities. The second, third and overtime periods saw SU make mistakes in the neutral zone, a place that the team dominated in the opening 20 minutes. Midway through the second period, Primeau lost control of the puck after moving past multiple RIT skaters. Minutes later, Rayla Clemons used her speed to take advantage of a breakaway, but her shot went over the net after pressure was applied. On the other end, SU began conceding breakaway chances.
“We definitely slowed down a bit and let them win some races,” Moloughney. “And we talked about the changes to not let that happen in the third.”
In the last 20 minutes of regulation, Syracuse limited RIT to three shots. But the mistakes and stops continued. Sarah Marchand and DiGirolamo were shut down throughout the third and overtime periods, as their shots were all either blocked by Tigers’ defenders or saved by Coe. After Beacom’s penalty and the Tigers’ goal, Moloughney responded with a goal of her own. But the rest of the team struggled. Johnson had one of her shots get blocked by the Tigers, while another Primeau shot went wide.
The overtime period gave SU two power play chances. On the first power play, the Orange had four shots taken by DiGirolamo, Marchand and Mae Batherson that all got blocked and dumped out by the Tigers. The reverse umbrella that Syracuse typically runs on power plays was unable to create good looks or passing lanes. Both special teams units were held in check by the Tigers, even as Moloughney finished off her hat trick to send SU to the CHA championship game.
“You need really good special teams,” head coach Paul Flanagan said. “They were two-for-five on the powerplay today, and that’s uncharacteristic of us. So those are things that we can tighten up for tomorrow.”
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