By Kevin Dorr
Newark, DE– The Syracuse Orange (2-5-1) split their weekend series with the #23 Delaware Blue Hens (4-3-0) this past weekend. After falling 6-1 in Friday night’s game, the Orange bounced back to win their first conference game of the season 3-2 on Saturday.
The Orange took an early penalty in Friday’s game and weren’t able to get themselves going after that. The host team took the lead midway through the first frame after controlling the pace of play for the majority of the game.
The Blue Hens doubled their lead early in the second, but junior Alex Oakes brought the Orange back within one with 8:06 left on the clock. For the Orange to be successful, players throughout the lineup must contribute to the scoresheet. Physicality is an important part of his game for Oakes, but getting involved in the offensive zone has been valuable for the team.
“I like to play the body and make that part of my game”, said the 6 '5 defensemen. “But it feels good to contribute to the offense”.
24 seconds after Oakes’ tally, the Orange found themselves shorthanded. In an important moment in the game, the Orange rose to the occasion.
An improved penalty kill has helped the Orange manage to stay close to opponents.
“We have good communication and a lot of trust in our goalie” noted Oakes. “This allows us to pressure the other team on the outside”.
The Orange killed all three penalties in Friday’s game.
Last season, the Orange struggled to finish games. Despite their improvements from last year, the Orange lost 6-1 after trailing 2-1 through 40 minutes of play. A disappointing loss, but an opportunity to learn.
Going into Saturday, the Orange knew they could compete with this Delaware team. Mistakes are part of the game, so loosening up and focusing on the next day was something the Orange emphasized going into Saturday.
The Orange got off to a less-than-ideal start in Saturday’s game. Already on the penalty kill early, Sam Hutchinson was sent to the box for a suspect boarding call. The Blue Hens capitalized to take the lead on the 5-on-3.
The Orange responded with their own 5-on-3 goal late in the first after sophomore Evan Vassilovski ripped a shot blocker side to tie the game at 1. An improved Orange powerplay turned out to be the difference maker in the game.
“We’ve really improved our powerplay,” said junior forward Sam Hutchinson. “We move the puck, create good looks, and are breaking the puck in a lot more effectively”.
Midway through the second, Hutchinson gave the Orange the lead in 4-on-4 action. A broken play led to Hutchinson with the puck in the slot, and he put the Orange ahead.
Delaware evened the score in 4-on-4 action later in the second period. A scramble in front of the crease led to the tying Delaware goal.
The Orange had found themselves in a familiar position, a tight game after 40 minutes. After Friday’s blank, the Orange knew what they had to do to come back to Syracuse with 2 points.
“We all have jobs,” said Hutchinson. “And for us to win, we have to do our jobs and give everything we have”.
Syracuse found themselves on the powerplay early in the third period. Knowing it could be a pivotal 2 minutes, the Orange moved the puck around before getting a little bit of puck luck. Vassilovski threw the puck toward the net, finding the hip of Hutchinson. Tied up around a Delaware defender, Hutchinson deflected the puck to the back of the Delaware net, giving the Orange a 3-2 lead.
An intense third period followed, but Syracuse was able to kill crucial penalties, block shots, and eat time.
A battle to the end, the Orange willed their way to victory. Goalie Chris Spano made game-saving stops, and the Orange hung on to win.
It was a great day for Syracuse fans, with the football team defeating #15 N.C. State and the hockey team beating #23 Delaware.
A non-conference matchup with the University of Buffalo is on the horizon for the coming weekend.
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org