The Orange (#3, Inside Lacrosse) opened their 2005 season with a victory over Army (#14, Inside Lacrosse) 9-4 in the Carrier Dome tonight, extending their current win streak dating back to last year to eight.
The defending national champions did nothing more than expected after losing much of their offensive firepower to graduation including all-time Syracuse points leader Michael Powell.
Syracuse played solid defense and received superb goaltending by senior captain Jay Pfeifer.
"It wasn't easy, Army did a lot of different things defensively. They really mixed it up well," said Syracuse coach John Desko. "We just kind of got used to it and found a couple of things that worked for us. We finally shot well against their goaltender."
A young offense, anchored by its lone returning attackman, junior Brian Crockett, displayed patience and played a possession game in the season opener for both teams. Syracuse dominated at the face-off X with sophomore Danny Brennan winning 14-of-17 in the game.
"I tried to play my game and it was working," said Brennan who studied a lot of film this past week of the Army team.
Brennan's control allowed Syracuse to work their game plan.
"He was huge for us, to give us all those possession with a young group (offensively) was very big. He gave us the ball back after a lot of those goals," Desko said.
This game was a change from the opener for the teams last year, an offensive shootout that ended in a 19-15 Syracuse win. Syracuse, who never trailed in this one, has now won its past 10 meetings with the Black Knights.
Crockett led all scorers with four goals and one assist, the goals all coming in the second half. Junior attackman Brett Bucktooth, who made the switch from midfield to attack this season, tallied three assists.
Syracuse used a six goal spurt to pull away from Army during the third and fourth quarters. Pfeifer and the Syracuse defense held Army scoreless for the final 22 minutes and 11 seconds. Pfeifer recorded 12 saves. Syracuse outshot Army 39-26.
After three straight Syracuse penalties, Army finally capitalized with their lone man-up goal (1-4) of the game by senior attackman Jim Wagner to tie the score at four apiece with 7:11 left to play in the third quarter. Wagner led Army scoring with two goals.
The Syracuse surge began when Crockett picked up an Army offensive turnover at midfield. He streaked towards the Army net unopposed and fired a shot by goalie Matt Darak with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter.
"Early in the season we want to make sure we're not giving our defense too much. We do try to slow down the ball a little bit and maintain possession," said Crockett. "The first half their goalie came up with some real big saves. We figured just keep shooting and eventually some will fall, and that's what happened."
Freshman attackman Mike Leveille, making his debut for the Orange, notched two goals, one off of a feed from Bucktooth to give Syracuse a 6-4 lead. Crockett scored two more goals to finish the game, sandwiched between a Stephen Brooks goal.
Syracuse finished the first half with a 3-2 lead before Army tied the game with a Matt Scheel goal with 12:46 remaining in the third quarter. Crockett recorded his first goal of the game with 12:05 remaining to give Syracuse a 4-3 lead.
The Orange began the scoring after a Jay Pfeifer save led to a quick transition and clear to senior captain and defenseman Scott Ditzell. He raced down the field and rocketed a shot over Darak's right shoulder nearly three minutes into the game.
Junior Greg Rommel and Leveille scored Syracuse's other two goals of the first half. Rommel scored on a man-up opportunity with an assist from Bucktooth with 4:12 left in the first quarter. Syracuse went 1-for-3 on extra man advantages.
The opener was sloppy for both teams with each failing to clear the ball on the defensive end on numerous occasions added to overthrown passes and turnovers.
Desko said the first game of the year is never going to be pretty.
Syracuse will face No. 8 ranked Virginia in the Dome for its next game March 5 at 3 p.m.
Syracuse opens season with win
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