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Sarah Marchand faced pressure from Nittany Lion Mallory Uihlein as she came across the blue line. Marchand looked to pass the pack to Orange defenseman Mae Batherson. But Batherson couldn’t control the puck, and Kiara Zanon, Penn State’s second-leading scorer, now had a breakaway against Arielle DeSmet. Zanon held onto the puck initally as she got close to the goalie. The forward then tried a backhand shot, but DeSmet made the stop with her pad.
On Penn State’s second breakaway attempt, Syracuse’s all-conference defenseman, Jessica DiGirolamo, was beaten by Nittany Lion forward Natalie Heising in the neutral zone. Heising skated straight down the middle of SU’s zone. And like Zanon before her, Heising initially held onto the puck for a backhanded attempt. But this time DeSmet wasn’t able to stop it, and Penn State’s leading scorer got her eighth goal of the year to give the Nittany Lions their seventh win of the season. DiGirolamo told her teammates that the overtime goal was her fault as the Orange players entered the locker room after the defeat.
“That was my mistake,” DiGirolamo said. “It’s more having your man, and in three-on-three you always have to eyes on your man.”
The overtime period was one of three parts of the game where Penn State (7-4-2, 4-1 College Hockey America) had the offensive edge over Syracuse (4-6-2, 3-2 CHA) on Friday. While the Orange surrendered a total of 62 shots against the Nittany Lions, that damage was mostly done during the first period, the early stages of the third period and overtime.
SU had the first three shots of the game, including shots from DiGirolamo and Madison Primeau. But Penn State generated early breakaway chances including an early three-on-two where PSU got the puck back around the net less than three minutes into the game. Forward Julie Gough got the first shot for the Lions from a distance, but goalie Allison Small stopped it.
This offensive onslaught continued as Penn State was constantly applying pressure in the neutral zone in the first period. With just over six minutes to play in the game, Abby Moloughney attempted a pass intended for Lauren Bellefontaine from the left side of the neutral zone. Pressure from the Nittany Lions, however, forced the pass to be a little too hard, and Bellefontaine couldn’t retrieve the puck. It soon fell back into Penn State’s zone for an icing call, giving the Lions another chance in the Orange’s zone.
And with just under 10 minutes left to play in the period, PSU defenseman Rene Gangarosa stole the puck from DiGirolamo in the neutral zone. Minutes later, Victoria Klimek tried for an offensive chance down the left side but got stopped by two Penn State defenders as she crossed the blue line. Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan said the Nittany Lions were going “D-to-D” drawing SU’s forwards away from the far side of the ice, which helped PSU create offensive chances.
“They were exploiting our neutral zone forecheck group,” Flanagan said. “And they were kind of shifting, and so they were getting that far-side person wide open. They were really doing a good job of getting the puck in deep.”
But despite Penn State outshooting Syracuse 26-9, Small and the Orange defense kept the Nittany Lions scoreless. With over eight minutes left in the period, Maeve Connolly skated down the right side of SU’s zone. As she crept closer toward the net, Connolly fired a shot at Small, who initially made the stop. But the Nestleton, Ontario native didn’t have full control, and a scrum ensued that forced Small to fall over on her backside to stop play and ice the puck.
Small made 19 saves in the first period, but that period would be the only action Small saw in the game as a consistent problem all season struck again. It was only Small’s fourth game played all year, as she has been dealing with a consistent knee injury that she sustained in the first game of the season. Flanagan said he noticed how the goalie was limping at the end of the opening period. So he decided to go with DeSmet for the rest of the night.
Flanagan said the Robert Morris transfer was “as cool as a cucumber” and made crucial stops as the Orange started to improve offensively in the second period. But DeSmet’s presence was especially needed after the second.
The beginning of the third period saw Penn State on the attack and nothing else. In the first five minutes alone, the Nittany Lions had eight shots before the Orange attempted a single one. In the first 90 seconds, Zanon and Izzy Heminger both took shots that DeSmet was able to stop. Not long after this, Heising skated down the left side of the Syracuse zone when she passed down to teammate Carrie Byrnes. Byrnes was right next to DeSmet and had an open look. But the sophomore couldn’t finish the play and missed Heising’s pass.
The Nittany Lions continued their pressure after DiGirolamo was called for slashing early in the third. Uihlein took two shots during the power play, and Gough took one as well. This put consistent pressure on DeSmet, but she continued to keep the game tied at zero.
“She looked confident and that’s her style,” Flanagan said. “She’s not big and not all over the place. She’s pretty compact and very technical.”
DeSmet had seven saves in the third and got help from her teammates who blocked shots for the goalie as well. This gave the Orange some momentum down the stretch of the third period, eventually ending in SU having more shots in the period than PSU.
But Penn State got the better chances in the overtime period, including the two breakaways. While the Orange got two shots on goal of their own, Zanon and Heising proved to be the difference-makers in the extra period.
“Those two (Zanon and Heising) were their best players coming down on the breakaways,” DeSmet said. “It was a lot of pressure, and they have a lot of skilled players.”
The post Penn State ends Syracuse’s 2-game win streak with overtime goal appeared first on The Daily Orange.