Updated: Oct 19
By Gino Antimarino
Photo Credit: Maria Kaffes (Instagram: @mariakaffesimages)
The weekend series between Syracuse men’s ACHA hockey and Kent State was a tale of two games. After a six hour bus ride to Northeast Ohio on Friday, the Orange showed no fatigue. SU scored three unanswered goals in the first period of the first matchup to put the Golden Flashes down in front of their home crowd. Syracuse built off that momentum in the remaining frames to silence Kent State 4-0.
Syracuse has found an identity in the early stages of the season: Forechecking and putting an exuberant amount of pucks on net. In the Friday contest, the Orange thrived because of their name of the game. SU tallied over 50 shots and pressured KSU all over the rink. Sophomore forward Jack Alecia, scored the third goal of the game by forechecking, causing a turnover, and having a wide open lane in front of the Kent State goalie. Sophomore defenseman Sean Caddo explained that the pressure from end-boards-to-end-boards, caused chaos for the Golden Flashes.
“I thought Friday was probably one of our best games of the year,” Caddo said. “Our forecheck and backcheck by our forwards was actually really good. (The Golden Flashes) had trouble breaking the puck out all night, which we only gave them 25 shots and a lot of them were from the outside and that’s pretty much the goal every time you play. So that was definitely an improvement from the weekends prior.”
Forward Jack Wren got things going for Syracuse in game one with a goal off a deflection in front. Junior Evan Vassilovski scored the second after a quick regroup through the neutral zone and firing a puck past Kent State’s goalie, Nick Beck. The fourth and final goal was tipped by alternate captain Sam Hutchinson off a no-look feed from Jacob VonTersch from the point.
On the other end for SU, Kent State faced a brick wall in the crease. Netminder AJ Finta stopped all 25 shots the Golden Flashes took. The sophomore recorded the first shutout of his collegiate career.
“He was unreal on Friday,” Caddo commented about Finta. “He’s been good all year. He definitely kept us in the game on Friday, especially in the first period… As a defenseman, when you trust a goalie and you have him back there, it just makes your job easier.”
Defenseman Lucas Skolnick made his season debut on Friday after undergoing surgery in the offseason. The junior provided valuable minutes on the third pairing with Caddo and notched an assist on the weekend.
All was good for Syracuse rolling into Saturday, even into the start of game two. The Orange scored the first goal of the game, thanks to alternate captain Tim Cook. But the rally did not last long for SU. Kent State came roaring back to go up 3-1 at the end of the first. The primary and secondary scores from the Golden Flashes came within 10 seconds of each other.
“I think Saturday we probably got a little too comfortable,” Caddo explained. “We got a little too confident. Kent State came out buzzing with a new game plan and we were caught by surprise a little bit.”
Syracuse came out flying in the second. Caddo joined the rush as the trailer on a two-on-one into the Kent State zone. Forward Henry Pendleton sent a pass-off-pad that landed straight on Caddo’s blade in the slot. The New Jersey native made no mistake with the shot to bring the Orange back to within one.
“It felt good. It was 3-1 at that point in the game so I was looking to join the rush and try to get some momentum in our favor.”
The Golden Flashes did a great job, though, in Saturday’s game at stopping any momentum the Orange generated. Moments after Caddo’s goal, Kent State answered with one of its own. KSU netted one more in the third period before time expired to make the final score 5-2.
“It was probably good for us, honestly, to get a little reality check. To get a little humbled because last year, we did not win a lot. And, this year, when you come out and go on a four-game-win-streak, you kind of think you’re on top of the world so it’s good to get humbled a little bit. It’ll get us ready to go for Pitt.”
After the weekend battles, Syracuse improves to 4-1-1 on the season. The Orange have a chance to add to their win column on home ice this coming weekend against the Pittsburgh Panthers. SU will be honoring its alumni and Hall of Fame inductees all weekend long with Friday's game starting at 7:00 p.m. and game two starting at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.