Ice Hockey

Defensive turnovers by Syracuse spoil Abbey Miller’s performance in 3-2 loss to Mercyhurst

Sam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

Abbey Miller gave up three goals, but many of those came off of tough situations when Syracuse turned the puck over.

Using her frame and stick handling skills Lindsay Eastwood deked around one defender at the blue line and began to try another deke, but it failed. Mercyhurst’s Michelle Robillard striped the puck off the defenseman’s stick, spun around and started a 2-1 before an off-balance Eastwood could fully get in position to close of any passing lanes.

Robillard backhanded a pass right onto the stick of a cutting Brooke Hartwick who faked forehand and instead went backhand over Abbey Miller to give Mercyhurst a 2-0 lead.

“We were kind of selfish tonight and we had a lot of turnovers, a lot of really bad turnovers,” Miller said.

Another defensive turnover had resulted in a scoring opportunity, but after making save after save, Miller was left out to dry and Syracuse’s hopes of winning the game turned from bleak to grim.

Syracuse (11-12-5, 10-4-2 College Hockey America) mounted a comeback to tie the game at two but like much of the game failed to play a consistent defensive game and lost 3-2 to Mercyhurst (11-17-2, 7-8-1) on Saturday afternoon at Tennity Ice Pavilion, spoiling a good performance from Miller.

Syracuse shut out Mercyhurst the night before and looked to pounce on the Lakers from the start. Instead the Lakers, who were more physical, quickly turned errant passes and mishandled chips off the boards into instant offense.

Miller, who finished with 23 saves on 26 shots and kept the game from getting out of hand early, admitted that Syracuse wasn’t ready for the push the Lakers came with.

“We just kind of overlooked them and thought we had (a win) in the bag,” Miller said.

The combination of a stagnant offense and a defense on its toes lead to Miller facing shots from every inch of the ice, including many off of rebounds in close. Throughout the game many of these chances often led to dramatic reflex saves.

In the first period, she was able to control her rebounds and in the second and third periods she was able to slide from post to post with ease, at one point getting her left pad out just in time on a 2-on-1 to keep her team in the game.

“Thank God someone showed up with a focus,” SU head coach Paul Flanagan said.

As the team tried to push the offense from the blue line out turnovers started to pile up. Forward Stephanie Grossi attributed the turnovers to increased pressure form the Lakers, particularly in the neutral zone. She said that continuing to slow the game down and make the right play, not the easy play, would have solved the pressure.

“When you have pressure, just get it deep (into the offensive zone), “ Grossi said. “And make the plays when you got to make them tape to tape.”

While Syracuse adjusted in five on five play, the same tactics arose on the penalty kill, allowing Lakers players nothing but white and the goalie in front of them.

On the first goal of the game, a power-play goal, Jennifer MacAskill took the puck down low to Miller’s right and quickly found a wide-open Nicole Guagliardo who took her time before gently sliding the puck into the right corner of the net past Miller’s pad.

On the third goal, also on the power-play, a wide-open Jillian Skinner pounced on a loose puck that ricocheted off Millers pad and again there were no white jerseys to clean it up, or lift the stick of Skinner in turn allowing Miller to cover the puck up for a faceoff.

Flanagan said that while some of the turnovers stemmed from the offense, out of position forwards were critical in allowing Mercyhurst to get the amount of chances in close.

“On both their power play goals, our forward that’s supposed to come down (from the blue line) and help out front just stood there,” Flanagan said.

The defense that played yesterday that limited turnovers, was relentless on the boards, and at times was literally attached to an opposing player had propelled Syracuse to second place in the conference, allowed too many odd skater rushes and didn’t value possession and it cost them the game.

“This loss is not (Miller’s) fault,” Grossi said. “We have to support her better.”

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