Ice Hockey

Syracuse stymied by missed opportunities and No. 9 RMU’s goaltender in 2-0 championship loss

Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

Syracuse's offense never got going on Saturday evening and the troubles couldn't have come at a worse time.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan didn’t have many answers for his team’s sixth College Hockey America championship game loss, the third in as many years. Neither did junior defenders Megan Quinn and Dakota Derrer.

There were no ideas from assistant coaches Brendon Knight and Alison Domenico, who sat silently in the dim tunnel outside the locker room, staring solemnly at their feet.

Syracuse had no answers for the loss, just as it hadn’t for No. 9 Robert Morris and goalie Jessica Dodds.

Just one day removed from scoring four goals, SU’s offense got stonewalled in the biggest game of the season. The Orange (16-13-5, 14-4-2 CHA) was shutout for only the fourth time this year, its first since Nov. 26 against then-No. 7 North Dakota. The Colonials (24-4-6, 15-3-2) snatched the title, 2-0, behind a 32-save performance from the senior goaltender Dodds. When SU wasn’t hitting the post or firing shots wide, Dodds and RMU’s defense locked down any chances Syracuse had of scoring.

“We just came short,” Derrer said. “We just couldn’t find the net.

“We just couldn’t find it.”

After winning the opening faceoff, junior forward Stephanie Grossi carried the puck into the offensive zone on the left wing. She fired a backhander off Dodds’ pad and the rebound skittered straight to the stick of a cutting Savannah Rennie. With almost the whole net to shoot into, it seemed Syracuse would lead 19 seconds into the game. But Rennie’s attempt went high and wide.

Throughout, several odd-man rushes were wasted by an errant pass or bad shot, most notably when senior forward Jessica Sibley fired high over the open net in the middle of the first period. The most important miss of the night for the Orange was the closest to going in.

“I think we outplayed them,” Quinn said, “and they were holding on for dear life. We just needed to finish and couldn’t do that today.”

As SU’s hopes of a comeback slipped away in the third period, redshirt junior Brooke Avery carried the puck over the blue line with 11:25 to go. Avery put a move on the defender opposite her and suddenly it was only ice between her and Dodds. Avery ripped a quick wrist shot, and the loud “OH!” from the crowd almost drowned out the ring of the puck making square contact with the post. Almost.

When Syracuse put the puck on net to test Dodds, she stood tall. No matter where it came from, or how well set up the chance was, it seemed the senior’s glove appeared just in time. She corralled rebounds and swallowed up shots into her body without ever showing any distress.

On the rare occasion when Dodds allowed a rebound, her defenders picked her up. RMU blueliners consistently stymied the Orange attack by tying up the sticks of forwards long enough to clear the puck to the corner, Flanagan said.

Coupled with Dodds’ perfect performance, that was enough to stop a Syracuse attack that looked crisp and aggressive through two periods.

“She’s a goalie who makes herself big,” Flanagan said. “I’m glad she’s graduating.”

After the game, while RMU celebrated on the ice, the second-place trophy sat on top of a garbage can opposite the Syracuse locker room door. It’s become a familiar sight for Flanagan and his team. The season ended one game short, as it always has for Syracuse.

Different goaltender, same ending.

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