By: Isabella Apple
Syracuse, N.Y. -- The Syracuse Orange (9-9-3) visited the Colorado State Rams (6-11-1) for a one-game series to cap off the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend late Sunday night. The Orange extended their win streak to five since the ball dropped into 2020, besting the Rams 6-3. The Orange faced a 2-goal deficit twice, but a relentless powerplay unit in the second period shifted the game in Syracuse’s favor.
The Orange got off to a rocky start in the Rockies, giving up a goal just four minutes into the game as sophomore goalie Cal Stewart couldn’t track the puck through a Colorado State screen. Just two minutes later, junior Connor Preston was called for a 5-minute-major giving the Rams the extended man advantage to add to their lead.
With Preston in the box, the Orange played a back and forth game, giving up a powerplay goal just :18 seconds into the penalty and going down 2-0. Forward Lucas Prestamo came streaking down the ice short-handed and faked the pass while sailing a shot past the Rams netminder.
But just as momentum swung in the Orange direction, Syracuse gave up another powerplay goal and once again faced a 2-goal deficit 3-1
Syracuse got right back into the game after drawing a penalty and was able to pull within one before time expired in the first. Captain Peter-Owen Hayward brought the puck into the offensive zone and fired off the Rams’ goaltenders’ pads right into the waiting stick of alternate captain Matt Jacobs. The senior wasted no time burying the rebound for the power-play tally.
Hayward feels the Oranges no panic approach to a deficit shows how their younger roster has matured throughout the season.
“Two tough games and a few days of travel had worn us all down a bit and it showed in the first period of that game, but our group showed a ton of fight and never panicked even when we went down two goals early. I think that shows just how much our team has grown up over the course of the season.”
The Orange left for the first intermission with the ice tilted in their favor but still facing a one-goal deficit.
Syracuse came out of the locker room firing after the Rams took multiple penalties; eventually giving the Orange a two-man advantage. The Rams had no answer 5-on-3 as Preston tucked the puck into the upper right corner to tie the game 3-3 for Syracuse.
The junior forward knew the Orange had plenty of time to come back as long as they stuck to their game plan.
“I think a key to us hanging in games after going down early this year is to just stick to our game. When we know we have the edge on a team we make it a point to [keep pressing].” Preston said. “We knew we had to keep working last night and that the win was not going to come easy. We focused on the little things like winning puck battles and keeping the game simple [and were eventually rewarded].”
After the Orange had a goal disallowed with over nine minutes left in the middle frame, senior Matt Jacobs once again found himself in the right place at the right time. Jacobs was able to break the tie scoring his second of the night while the Orange fought back from an early deficit.
As the clock passed five minutes remaining in the second period, Syracuse again drew the short stick and had a second goal disallowed within four minutes of each other.
Leaving the ice for the final intermission, the Orange had their first lead of the night, 4-3, and with multiple power-play opportunities controlled most of the second frame.
After exchanging chances to open the 3rd period, Syracuse was able to settle down and find senior Colorado native Dylan Wheeler, who finished his hometown visit with a huge goal for the Orange.
The senior forward was elated to score against some of his former teammates who now play for the Rams.
“I found an open area and when I saw Brunner get the puck, I called for it and he put it right on my stick. I saw an open spot and tried to shoot it around the defenseman in front of me and luckily it went in,” said the forward. “It was awesome. It was special to have my family and friends at the games and to play against some of my friends and former teammates.”
Holding onto a 5-3 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the final period, Colorado State took a five-minute major. The major gave the Orange not only an opportunity to build on their lead, but maybe more importantly, an opportunity to kill clock while defending their lead.
As time was ticking, the Rams continued to be aggressive on the penalty kill in attempts to generate a last-minute short-handed chance. Perhaps playing too aggressively left Colorado out of position as the puck made its way to Hayward’s tape, and eventually the back of the Rams’ net to give the Orange a 6-3 lead.
Syracuse would close out the final minutes with solid defensive play and timely saves by Stewart to extend their win streak to 5-games. The Orange will hit the road again next weekend to face the University of Rhode Island Rams before finally returning home to Tennity Ice Pavillion.
By E-mail: Iengelha@syr.edu
By Twitter: @isabella_skye23