No. 6 Syracuse narrowly escapes St. John’s in 4th straight one-goal game, 9-8
Ally Moreo | Photo Editor
NEW YORK — John Desko walked out of the locker room. He was told to stand by the wall near the crowd of reporters waiting after Syracuse’s 9-8 win over St. John’s.
“I’ve been against the wall all game,” the head coach quipped, letting out a chuckle.
Syracuse has never lost to St. John’s. The former Big East rivals first played in 1990 and since then, Syracuse has won all 10 games. Saturday at DaSilva Memorial Field in Queens ended up being no exception, as Syracuse narrowly escaped.
A win came as no surprise. St. John’s is as inexperienced as it gets: Four starters are freshmen and the team’s starting goalie is in his first season with the Red Storm (1-5). How close the game ended up, however, was anything but expected.
In No. 6 Syracuse’s (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) first time outside the Carrier Dome all season, the team struggled. The offense tried forcing skip passes instead of working around the defense and finding an open shot. Other times, shots bounced off Daniel Costa’s slim goalie stick. The end result was another one-goal game for the fourth straight week.
“We were very sloppy,” Desko said. “Fifteen turnovers. Fortunately, St. John’s had as many turnovers.”
For the first five minutes, the two teams were gridlocked in a scoreless tie. Nick Mariano found an open Brad Voigt, who put Syracuse on the board. Then, over the next minute, the Orange poured in three more goals with faceoff specialist Ben Williams picking up both a goal and an assist. Quick transition from the X to attack led to opportunities that St. John’s could not afford. A runaway victory seemed inevitable for Syracuse, who held SJU to just two shots on goal.
In the middle of the second quarter with Syracuse ahead by four, Nate Solomon ran toward a Red Storm player pushing transition. He reached his arm over the player and pulled him down. Almost immediately after the two stumbled, a yellow flag was thrown high in the air.
Solomon was given a two-minute, non-releasable penalty for an illegal body check. For the first time all game, St. John’s offense could settle down and work the ball around. Just as the penalty was about to release, the Red Storm found the back of the net.
“They were getting comfortable,” goalie Evan Molloy said. “That was their first time having a real long possession together and they weren’t pressured to shoot.”
St. John’s scored another goal four minutes later and entered halftime on a 4-1 run, trailing by two. During the second quarter, St. John’s had outshot the Orange by 13. Just like against Virginia the week prior, the Orange struggled to follow up off a strong first quarter.
As the narrative has been all year, Syracuse is a second-half team. Shots high and wide find the back of the net. The defense buckles down and complete slides that were otherwise early or late. Syracuse becomes a well-oiled machine that only few teams can turn off.
Unranked St. John’s, who defeated Siena last week by just one goal, was an unlikely candidate to change it (Syracuse opened up the season with a 19-6 win against Siena). Yet, in the Orange’s first game outdoors, the Red Storm jumped at the opportunity.
“As usual, the game didn’t go as I thought it would,” Desko said.
Every time Syracuse scored, it seemed St. John’s would answer. The scoring margin was never more than two in the third quarter. For all but two minutes in the fourth, Syracuse gripped closely to a one- or two-goal lead. In the fourth quarter alone, Syracuse turned the ball over six times, leading to many Red Storm counter attacks. The Orange kept letting SJU creep back.
Near the end of the game, St. John’s began to compile a comeback. A quick goal a little over three minutes left pulled the game within two. Desko decided to rely on his best players to work the ball around offense, despite the struggles early on.
“(Desko) put the guys back in who needed to finish the game in the fourth quarter,” senior attack Jordan Evans said. “We made a couple of mistakes and the guys had to learn from that and take a seat for a little bit.”
St. John’s then pulled its goalie to mark a Syracuse player. The Red Storm went all-in. And it paid off. A Brendan Bomberry turnover ended in a Jackson O’Leary goal with under a minute to play. Just like that, Syracuse found itself in the same situation as the previous three weeks.
Less than 40 seconds later, Paolo Ciferri turned the ball over. St. John’s had one last chance at tying the game, forcing overtime. A last-ditch effort shot from Scott Scannell went high and wide as the clock expired. Goalie Evan Molloy jumped in the air and ran toward his teammates on the sideline.
The Orange had won three of the past four when the game was decided by one goal. Each time, a last-second opportunity to tie or win the game emerged. That part of the narrative didn’t change against St. John’s.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Desko said.
Published on March 11, 2017 at 3:20 pm