Syracuse’s power-play units lead team to 1st-ever win over conference rival Mercyhurst

first_img Published on November 8, 2014 at 9:00 pm Contact Jon: [email protected] | @jmettus With the score knotted at one and just 12 minutes remaining, Syracuse needed a goal.Mercyhurst center Emily Janiga took a checking penalty to give the Orange a five-on-four, but SU had only scored on three previous power plays all season.A minute and 20 seconds had elapsed from the advantage without a shot on goal for the Orange until forward Melissa Piacentini grabbed a clearing attempt out of the air and dropped the puck to her stick. She then took a stride toward the net before beating Mercyhurst goalie Amanda Makela with a backhand.The players on the Syracuse bench screamed and goalie Jenn Gilligan skated out of her crease on the other side of the ice to high-five players at the bench.“It was a huge goal, just momentum and confidence wise,” head coach Paul Flanagan said. “Nobody sitting on the bench doubting themselves. That second goal was all we needed.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe power-play goal proved to be the deciding tally as Syracuse (3-4-5, 2-1-1 College Hockey America) beat No. 7 Mercyhurst (9-2-1, 3-1-0), 4-1, at Tennity Ice Pavilion on Saturday. And SU’s special teams units were even more effective on the penalty kill, squashing three Mercyhurst power plays but netting the game-winner in crunch time. “The penalty kill is what won the game for us,” defenseman Nicole Renault said.  “… Keeping the penalty kill up is huge to counter our power play that hasn’t been successful, but special teams are huge in games like this.”SU only managed to get four shots on net during its first two power plays and struggled to maintain possession in the offensive zone.To start the Orange’s second opportunity, Renault had a shot blocked, then Mercyhurst stole the puck from SU center Stephanie Grossi.SU assistant coach Brendon Knight went from studying the play on the ice to staring at the ground in frustration as the Lakers took the puck into its offensive zone, despite being a man down.But eventually, on its third and final attempt, the Orange power play converted for just the fourth time in 42 tries.“For the most part our power play is moving the puck pretty well on the perimeter,” Flanagan said. “We have to fine tune it.”On the first penalty kill for SU, Gilligan was the backbone. She made six saves, including a one-time slap shot that she deflected away with the blocker and a glove save seconds later.“She was like on her head half the game,” forward Julie Knerr said of Gilligan, who Flanagan said was the team’s best penalty killer. “It was one of her best games I’ve seen her play, personally.”With less than five minutes left in the third, Syracuse defenseman Larissa Martyniuk gave Mercyhurst a power-play chance to tie the game after she was called for holding.“You didn’t call that before,” a fan yelled at the referees. “That’s awful,” another added.But the mood quickly turned around. With every blocked shot during the kill, the players on the bench pounded their fists against the boards and after forward Julie Knerr muffled a shot from the point, the crowd erupted in cheers.The challenge for the penalty-kill unit was Mercyhurst’s two different power-play strategies, Flanagan said, adding that his players did well adjusting on the fly. Forward Emily Costales said the key was realizing what player she had to defend, blocking shots and covering for her teammates.In Friday’s game, the Lakers were able to possess the puck and shoot at will on their power plays. Syracuse’s power play wasted four opportunities, including an extended five-on-three chance, and gave up a shorthanded goal.But on Saturday, the special teams units redeemed themselves. The power play provided the game-winning goal for SU and the penalty kill held off a Mercyhurst comeback attempt.Said Renault: “It was huge.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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