Ice Hockey

Syracuse’s improved power play leads to goals and victories

Leighann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

The Orange got in (a new) formation and the team has seen a major uptick in scoring.

Syracuse assistant head coach Alison Domenico had a goal coming back from Winter Break. Head coach Paul Flanagan assigned her the power-play unit, and she needed to fix a group ranking last in the conference with seven goals. The team arrived back to Tennity Ice Pavilion without the stress of schoolwork and reciprocated Domenico’s focus to fix the broken specialty unit.

Before practice one day, Domenico called her group to the ice and told them they would be changing their usual setup, hoping that the goals would soon follow. Before the break the Orange record was 5-8-5, and the power play appeared lifeless.

Twelve games, nine power-play goals and eight wins later, Syracuse (13-12-5, 12-4-2 College Hockey America) has reaped the benefits from the strategical shift and secured a first-round bye in the CHA tournament.

“Now we are doing more reading and reacting,” Flanagan said. “A little more spontaneity.”

The change in the power play’s success came when the Orange adjusted the positioning of its skaters. Forward Emily Costales, whose strength is one of her greatest assets, now sits near the crease causing traffic in front of the net. Fellow forward Savannah Rennie, joins Costales near the net.

“We want to see where you pass it when you get the puck,” Costales said. “Before we wouldn’t go over situations, now we actually could.”

Defenders Allie Munroe and Larissa Martyniuk used to control the puck at the top of the zone, but now they are outlets for the forwards passes. Stephanie Grossi, the team-leader in points, has seen her production increase now that she has more room to operate along the boards.

Once the players were in their new positions, Domenico preached puck movement. She made the players repeatedly pass the puck to each other. Munroe passed it down to Grossi who sent it to Costales, who then practiced sending it along the crease to Rennie, and so on.

“That early practice formed muscle memory,” Grossi said.

The new power play’s mission is to create as much puck movement and in turn, generate more shots. To do this, each player has to read a defense like a quarterback in football does. Find the passing lanes, execute, and get ready to receive a pass back.

To further implant these ideals into the minds of her players, Domenico gave them hand-written notes with personalized instructions as to what each skater has to focus on. Grossi’s note that still hangs in her locker instructs her to “look down low to Em (Costales) and look up high to move the puck to Marty (Martyniuk). Don’t hold onto it.”

On Jan. 20, the players saw the goals began to pour in. During a 5-0 victory against Lindenwood, SU’s new unit scored four power-play goals. The team will look to continue its power-play surge the last weekend of the regular season when the Orange take on Penn State.

“We were kind of like, ‘holy sh*t,’” Costales said of the improved power play. “If we keep it rolling we can do a lot of damage.”

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