The Orange (7-4), ranked No. 7 in the Geico/STX Coaches Poll, survived a tense final two minutes to hang on to a 14-13 victory over a vastly improved No. 13 Albany (8-4).
In likely his last game at home for the Orange, senior Jay Pfeifer came up with 11 saves, pushing him above the 700-save milestone. None were bigger though than the two he made with time winding down.
After an Albany timeout and a one-goal Syracuse lead, the Orange defense collapsed towards the middle in a zone, forcing an outside shot. Albany's Brendan Russell took a shot from 10 yards away and Pfeifer followed it into his stick with 24 seconds remaining.
Pfeifer lobbed the ball to junior Brett Bucktooth at midfield to seal the victory.
"We showed a lot of courage going into a tight defense towards the end," said Syracuse head coach John Desko. "I think we thought we iced it earlier though."
Minutes earlier, Pfeifer stepped out and stuffed Albany's Chris Martocchia on the crease with 2:16 left in the game and a 13-12 Syracuse lead. The ball fell out of Pfeifer's stick and bounced around the crease until senior Andrew Boyle kicked the ball out.
The save led to a Syracuse breakaway and the game-winning goal by freshman Mike Leveille 11 seconds later. Albany's Kevin Rae made the first save but the rebound forced him out of the net. Leveille scooped up the ball and scored on an Albany long-pole defender, standing in for the out-of-place Rae.
Syracuse then won the following face-off but turned the ball over after a timeout. Sophomore Merrick Thomson cut the lead back to one with a breakaway goal with 1:33 remaining.
"I wish we weren't in those situations. I wish we had the ball to close it out on the offensive end," said Syracuse senior Jarett Park, who finished with one goal and one assist. "Guys did what they had to do. Jay (Pfeifer) stepped up and had two point-blank saves at the end."
Syracuse easily managed two victories against Albany last year, both in the Dome. The Orange won the first 18-8 then won an NCAA playoff game 21-13. With most of Albany's team returning this year, Syracuse needed another stellar performance from junior attackman/midfielder Brian Crockett.
For the second straight game, Crockett switched between midfield and attack, this time recording six goals and one assist. He scored five last week against Rutgers.
Crockett's three goal third quarter ended with a last-second score. Senior Jake Plunket found Crockett racing in from the sideline. He ripped a wide-open shot from 15 yards out past Rae with one second remaining.
Albany kept the game tight throughout, never allowing Syracuse to take more than a two-goal lead. Thomson, Leveille's high school teammate at Albany Academy two years ago, led the Great Danes with five goals and two assists.
Bucktooth found his scoring touch with four goals after a four assists performance against Rutgers. Leveille added two goals and two assists.
Syracuse won 19-of-30 face-offs. Senior Geoff Keough took 13 while sophomore Danny Brennan won six.
Pfeifer now sits with 706 career saves, exactly 60 behind the Syracuse career leader Jamie Molloy (1977-80), who finished with 766.
Syracuse seniors Pfeifer, Plunket, Boyle, Keough, Park, Scott Ditzell, Brooks Neal, Chris DiMarco, Ryan Hogan, and Kevin Gowin were honored alongside their parents during a pre-game ceremony.
Orange survive scare against Albany
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