Ice Hockey

Blueline scoring fuels Syracuse’s 5-1 streak

Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

The blueline has posted 30 percent of the team’s points since the break, a slight uptick on the season average.

Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan doesn’t care how the goals look. He just like that his team is scoring them. Lots of them. Lately, they’ve come from a new source.

“Getting (defenders) involved as much as we can is really important,” Flanagan said. “It’s nice to kind of layer the scoring. Should give us a little added dimension.”

Since the team’s first home game after winter break, Syracuse’s (10-11-5, 9-3-2 College Hockey America) defenders have picked up their scoring. The blueline has posted 30 percent of the team’s points since the break, a slight uptick on the season average. The contributions have helped SU to a 5-1 record while outscoring opponents 21-6. And no defender has done more than sophomore Allie Munroe.

“She has … I call it, ‘kibbles and bits,’” Flanagan said, referencing a 1981 television commercial about a determined Old English sheepdog repeating ‘kibbles and bits’ over and over in its head while running to a kitchen to eat out of a bowl. “She’s just like that dog in the kitchen. She just wants to score.”

Munroe has exploded for the Orange, racking up seven points in her last six games, nearly matching her total of nine from the first 20. In that span, she attempted 20 shots. On Jan. 20, the Nova Scotia native tallied three assists and a goal of her own in Syracuse’s 5-0 drubbing of Lindenwood.

But Munroe is not alone. That same night, Larissa Martyniuk had a goal and an assist while defenders accounted for 42.9 percent of SU’s points. On Jan. 27 against Robert Morris, defender Megan Quinn scored SU’s lone goal on a laser from the point in a 3-1 loss.

For most of the season, a select group of forwards has shouldered the offensive load. Stephanie Grossi, Heather Schwarz, Alysha Burriss and Emily Costales alone account for 56.5 percent of the team’s goals this season.

“Obviously, you want more balanced scoring,” Flanagan said. “For us it’s been tough, so a lot of our offense is coming from our backend (now).”

Munroe partially credits her recent surge to the 24-day layoff between games. She spent some time at home in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and felt mentally refreshed after seeing family. That, and actually shooting to score as opposed to aiming for rebounds.

“Every time I’m going to take a shot, (I try to) find an open area,” Munroe said. “Not just hit the goalie but try and find an open spot.”

This aggression has prevented other teams from marking Syracuse’s top forwards or zeroing in on just one or two players. That complicates defending against the Orange offense, Flanagan said. It also opens up the offense.

Normally, Syracuse positions a skater in front of the opponent’s net to create traffic and screen the goalie. Defenses try to counter the screen by collapsing and clearing the crease. But by opting to go that route, Quinn said, blueliners are afforded more space and find better shot opportunities.

Some goals have been designed. Others, lucky bounces. In Quinn’s case, a missile. But the most important part is that they’ve come from somewhere new.

“They’re starting to reap the rewards and the benefits of jumping in,” Flanagan said. “(They’re) getting shots on net and getting good opportunities.”

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