Ice Hockey

Syracuse ice hockey loses, 3-2, after late penalty leads to Mercyhurst goal

Kali Bowden | Staff Photographer

Stephanie Grossi's late penalty led to a power play for Mercyhurst, which in turn led to the game winning goal.

With 1:06 left in the game Syracuse had all the momentum. The Orange attack that failed to muster any consistent offense previously, scored two goals in 57 seconds to tie the game. At that moment, SU head coach Paul Flanagan was already thinking about overtime. His thoughts were interrupted when a referee blew his whistle and thrusted an arm into the air.

SU’s Stephanie Grossi, the hero who scored the game tying goal, turned around in her defensive zone and knocked a Mercyhurst skater to the ground. The five-foot-two-inch Grossi could not believe that she had been called for body checking penalty.

“Steph is probably least physical person on our team,” SU goalie Abbey Miller said. “I personally think it was just a B.S. penalty.”

For the remaining 66 seconds Mercyhurst would have a one skater advantage.

Flanagan witnessed the Mercyhurst skater who fell begin to laugh behind the officials back. Grossi made her way to the penalty box with a stunned look on her face. Seventeen seconds later, the laugh of the Laker turned to cheers as Mercyhurst defender Jillian Skinner scored the game-winning goal.

Syracuse’s (11-12-5, 10-4-2 College Hockey America) last second push had been wasted as Mercyhurst (11-17-2, 7-8-1) pulled out a last minute win eerily similar to last year’s CHA title game winning 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.

The image of Grossi being mobbed by her teammates behind the Mercyhurst net moments after she knocked in the game-tying goal was forgotten. It had been replaced with the sight of SU defender Dakota Derrer slapping the boards with her stick in anger. A few feet to her left, Orange senior Jessica Sibley struck the right post of the SU net repeatedly, her frustration boiling over as well.

When Flanagan called his time out to try to will his team to another come-from-behind goal, the outcome seemed inevitable. The Orange burst proved futile, and SU dropped the two points it handily earned less than 24 hours prior.

For 57 minutes Syracuse failed to score on Mercyhurst goalie Jessica Convery. But then, as Flanagan described, Sibley went on a mission. The senior forward, who scored for the second time this season, cut the Laker lead in half. In a blur, Grossi had knocked in a rebound and the outcome of the game suddenly was in question.

“You could just feel (the energy),” Grossi said. “It was a great feeling.”

That feeling didn’t last long. Mercyhurst center Sarah Hine, who won only seven of her 21 faceoff attempts in the game, strong armed the puck away from Sibley after Grossi’s penalty. A scrum ensued and through the traffic, a shot fired off Miller’s pad to the waiting stick of Skinner, who scored the final goal.

When the final buzzer sounded last night, Miller’s teammates congratulated her on a shutout that never seemed in question. This afternoon, after letting in three goals, Miller was left alone. After half-heartedly shaking her opponent’s hands, the goalie skated over to her net and whacked her net just as Sibley did earlier. Miller than reached over to the back of her net and attempted to grab her Gatorade bottle. After failing once, Miller punched her glove. When she finally yanked the bottle from its cradle she spiked it on the ground and hit it over to the SU bench.

As a result of the loss the Orange will have to wait until next week to try and clinch a first-round bye in the CHA tournament. Flanagan is still looking to will his team to play consistent for 120 minutes. If SU attains a first-round bye, it would have to do just that to win its first CHA championship.

A win today would have eased the wounds of not only last year’s CHA title loss, but also for a game earlier in the season when the Lakers scored three third-period goals to defeat the Orange 4-3. But a penalty called with 1:06 left in the game changed the narrative.

“It was devastating,” Miller said. “The refs basically handed them the game.”

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