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When three minutes remained in the first period, the Nittany Lions were a minute away from killing Syracuse’s second power play. Madison Beishuizen collected the puck at center ice, pivoted left and fired a shot on goal. The puck collided off sophomore Mallory Uihlein’s skate and flew into the air.
Penn State’s goalie Josie Bothun committed to her right, exposing the left side of the goal. After noticing the redirected puck, Bothun planted her right leg in the corner, dove left and outstretched her glove. But the length of her 5-foot-6 frame wasn’t enough. Syracuse was on the board 1-0 against the No. 1-seeded team, Penn State.
Syracuse’s (12-8-1, 10-6-1 College Hockey America) 3-2 upset win over No. 1 Penn State (16-3-2, 16-3-2) on Friday sends the Orange to their second CHA championship game in three years and marks their ninth straight win this season. Through two conference tournament games, each of the team’s nine goals have been scored by a different skater.
Paul Flanagan is in the middle of his 13th season at the helm of Syracuse. During that time, he’s compiled over 400 wins, earned CHA Coach of the Year honors three times and led the Orange to their first NCAA Tournament berth in 2019. But none of his teams have ever won nine games in a row.
In five of the last six seasons, the Orange have lost in the second round, with the only exception being 2018-19, when they won the CHA.
In December, the Orange scored two goals in the final 20 minutes to conquer Penn State 4-2 . Each goal was scored by a different Syracuse skater, and six different players tallied an assist in the only previous win over the Nittany Lions. That win made Syracuse the first team to beat No. 6 Penn State in the 2020-21 season.
After Syracuse’s win over Lindenwood in the quarterfinals, Flanagan said that Syracuse needed that first goal to settle down defensively. In their quarterfinal game, the Orange used a wrist shot from Kristen Siermachesky at the top of the key to give them a lead, allowing the defense to find their footing. Against Penn State, it was Beishuizen.
“I think for our kids, it’s a mindset defensively: manage the puck well and go after it when it’s up for grabs,” he said. “It’s not just our defensemen, it’s our defensive scheme — which is everyone.”
On Friday afternoon, Syracuse’s defense was calm. They had prevented the Nittany Lions from scoring until Olivia Wallin broke through with a third-period goal 57 seconds into the final 20 minutes. Then, the momentum shifted, if only a little, to Penn State.
Pressure on the Orange defenders increased, and PSU found themselves open deeper in the defensive zone – a defense they hadn’t penetrated all night. Minutes later, the Nittany Lions scored their second goal with 11 minutes to play.
“They were chipping in, and they were just flying at us,” Flanagan said. “You feel the heat. We made a couple miscues, and they capitalized.”
Rachel Weiss broke for the left side of Syracuse goalie Allison Small. Syracuse’s defense allowed her to travel to the red line and pass to Wallin through a crowded zone in front of Small’s crease. The freshman was waiting on Small’s left side, and before the senior could shift over, she quickly flicked her wrist and moved the Nittany Lions within one.
Following Wallin’s second goal, Penn State was outshot 7-5, but it kept applying pressure on the Syracuse defenders. They were trying to mount a comeback similar to the first three matchups against Syracuse. In each of those games, Syracuse scored the first goal and relinquished the lead or finished in a tie.
The Orange prevented two of Penn State’s top goal scorers from recording a single point. Kiara Zanon and Julie Gough, both of whom finished top five in the CHA in goals and points, were neutralized to a total of seven shots, only four of which challenged Small.
As the minutes dwindled down and the whiffs of a Penn State comeback became harder to recognize, Izzy Heminger tried to find the goal. On the heels of her skates was Siermachesky and Mae Batherson, who finished without scoring a point. Heminger was able to break through Syracuse’s defense and find enough room to take a shot on goal. But Small easily blocked it, one of 24 on the afternoon.
Leading the way in preventing Penn State shots from reaching the net was Siermachesky. The defender got in the way of transition attempts for Penn State, which is an area the Nittany Lions tend to create offensive steals.
“There’s no doubt that you always have an eye on who’s on the ice and where (Zanon and Gough) are at at all times,” Siermachesky said.
With 49 seconds remaining, Bothun rushed off the ice and Penn State tried to blitz the Orange again, this time up a skater. But it was too late. Jessica DiGirolamo and Victoria Klimek cleared the puck. The shot went wide as the remaining seconds ticked off the clock and Syracuse’s upset of Penn State was further solidified.
“Our kids get to go to sleep tonight. They got a chance. You wake up, and you got a chance to win a championship tomorrow,” Flanagan said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
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