Ice Hockey

Syracuse ice hockey cruises past No. 7 Robert Morris, 5-1, to split weekend series

Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

Syacuse points leader Stephanie Grossi scored her 10th and 11th goals of the season on Saturday night.

With 9:11 left in the second period, a deflected puck skidded to the stick of an RMU player in the neutral zone. The lady Colonial attempted to skate back out, but SU forwards Heather Schwarz and Alysha Burriss raced toward the puck. Burriss knocked the puck away toward the Syracuse blue line.

A racing Schwarz corralled the puck and sped toward the net. When she skated past the left circle, Schwarz fired a shot to the right pad of RMU goaltender Jessica Dodds. The puck slipped away from the net-minder, near where Burriss was waiting for the rebound. The score gave Syracuse a 2-1 lead, on which SU expanded in the rout.

A day after failing to tie the best team in the conference for first place, Syracuse (10-11-5, 9-3-2 College Hockey America) gained a much-needed two points Saturday night in its 5-1 victory over No. 7 Robert Morris (17-3-6, 10-2-2) at Tennity Ice Pavilion. In handing the Colonials their worst defeat of the season, the Orange ensured that its hopes for a first-round bye in the upcoming CHA tournament were still alive.

“We treated it like a playoff game,” Allie Munroe said. “This was two points we really wanted and we really needed.”

In Friday night’s defeat, the Orange looked a step slow in the first period as it struggled to create momentum. Less than 24 hours later, the opposite occurred. Within the first eight minutes of the game, Syracuse scored one goal, generated seven shots and drew a penalty. With the threat of falling six points behind the first-place team in the conference, SU consistently out-hustled the Colonial defenders.

In the crucial opening minutes of the game, SU forward Savannah Rennie fired off a shot that ricocheted off an RMU defender and fell to Emily Costales’ stick. Costales, who positioned herself to the goaltender’s right, paused before sending the puck across the body of Dodds and into the net.

Syracuse produced many of the same chances it did in last night’s game, but SU executive efficiently on Saturday. SU blocked 17 shots to Robert Morris’ one.

Seconds after Burriss’ goal, SU defender Megan Quinn found herself on the wrong end of a 2-on-1 breakaway. As the RMU skater attempted a pass across the ice to her teammate, Quinn laid out, thrusting her stick forward and knocking the puck off its course.

Later in the period,  SU responded with a big play. As RMU established an offensive zone for the first time in the game, Munroe jumped in front of a slap shot and absorbed the force of the shot. Seconds later the puck was cleared and the Orange bench applauded Munroe’s effort.

“The energy on the bench today was something you can’t describe,” Syracuse point leader Stephanie Grossi said.

During the Friday night loss, the Colonials used a strong fore-check to disrupt SU’s transition opportunities. In response, Syracuse dropped its center lower in the zone defensively, providing an outlet for a pass whenever the puck was stuck against the boards.

After his team’s disappointing start to Friday’s game, SU head coach Paul Flanagan asked his team to put together a strong 60-minute performance. On Saturday afternoon, the Orange only needed 40, scoring three goals in the second period.

Grossi contributed her 10th and 11th goals of the season in the victory. Costales added three points, scoring in the first and assisting Grossi on both of her goals.

Throughout the third period, RMU searched for a goal to cut into the deficit. But the Syracuse defense held strong.

Many of the Orange players, Flanagan included, declined to say this game was a “must-win,” but the implications were there. With only six regular season the games left, the Orange has time to claim a first-round bye in the CHA tournament.

“Yesterday we weren’t really playing our game,” Miller said. “But today you could just feel it.”

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