By Owen Sienko and Ryan Nelson
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Syracuse Orange (15-13-3) stormed into Tennity Ice Pavilion for senior night on Sunday and defeated the Delaware Blue Hens (20-11-2) by a score of 3-1. The Orange were led by a squadron of seniors playing their last home games of their Syracuse careers.
Senior defenseman Luke Caddo said he struggled to keep his emotions in check and stay focused.
“You’re trying to keep it even-keeled because it’s ultimately just like any other game but at the same time you’re thinking about how many battles you’ve had with this group and you can’t help but to be a little emotional,” he said.
The defensive pairing of Caddo and freshman Mackenzie Murphy was rock solid throughout the period. Head Coach Connor Treacy relied on them heavily throughout the game, both five-on-five and on the penalty kill.
Senior goalie Eric Parker played his best hockey of the season, turning aside 38 of 39 shots for a season-high .974 save percentage.
“I was a little emotional before the game but I really dialed in during the game. Playing felt like any other game this year,” Parker said after his performance.
The Syracuse offense was off to a slow start on Senior night compared to Saturday's game where the Orange scored twice within the first five minutes of the game. The Orange had difficulty getting to scoring areas in the offensive zone and managed only six shots on goal. Delaware, on the other hand, fired 14 shots on goal, although most of them came on odd-man rushes and power plays.
Delaware finally broke through on the power play 45.5 seconds in. A series of penalties resulted in a four-on-three opportunity for the Blue Hens. They used the extra space to their advantage, exhausting the penalty killers with constant puck movement. Eventually, forward Colin Emerich worked his way to the front of the net and jammed in a rebound through the five hole.
The Orange came back onto the ice with a much more complete effort in the second period. The team picked up its offensive production as a whole, taking 14 shots and scoring on two of them. The seniors, especially Caddo and Hayward, continued to play a hard-working game on both sides of the ice, and Parker kept the net locked down.
Junior forward Chris Brunner-Grande drew a hooking penalty 2:40 into the period after being driven into the boards by defenseman Harrison Good. Brunner-Grande went on to score with about 30 seconds left in the power play and taunted Good while celebrating with his teammates.
The Brunner-Grande Goal gave Syracuse some confidence, but Delaware did not let it discourage them. The Blue Hens tested Parker with 14 shots but were unable to convert on any of them.
Caddo gave the Orange the lead with about five minutes remaining in the period when his point wrist shot cleanly found the top right corner of the net. After scoring, he erupted into celebration, jumped into the bench, and was mobbed by his teammates.
“For the celly, I didn’t have anything planned, I was just excited to help the boys out on Senior night,” the defenseman said. “I’ve always wanted to jump into the bench after a goal, so instinct just took over I guess.”
Syracuse went into the second, and final, intermission leading the Blue Hens 2-1. When they emerged from the locker room and took to the ice, the Orange turned up the heat even more.
While the Blue Hens continued to pepper Parker on their end of the ice, the only goal would be found 200 feet away. After cycling the puck from below the net, junior defenseman Ford Hatchett fired a shot from the point that was tipped by Brunner-Grande for his second of the game and the Orange’s third.
The period concluded with physical play from both sides and with great goaltending from Parker, who was perfect in the frame with 11 saves on 11 shots. With under 15 seconds to play, senior captain Peter-Owen Hayward added to his all-time penalty minutes total with a five-minute major for slashing.
As time expired, the Orange leapt over the boards to celebrate with their goalie in the crease. This marks Syracuse’s fourth straight win as they are heating up heading into the ESCHL tournament on Friday.
“We are all feeling good after these previous 4 games. I think we all want to carry that momentum into the tournament,” Parker said.
At 1:00 p.m. on Friday, the Orange will have a chance to defend their championship as they face off against New York University in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for game one of ESCHL Tournament play.
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