Ice Hockey

Late-game collapses lead Syracuse to 2nd-worst start in program history

Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

Syracuse has collapsed in the third period several times this year en route to tallying just nine points in its first 12 games.

During the approximate 238-mile bus ride from Erie, Pennsylvania to Syracuse, New York, the SU ice hockey team didn’t think about beating rival Mercyhurst, which it triumphed over for just the fourth time in 38 meetings earlier in the weekend. The players didn’t even reflect on the team’s four-goal outburst that led them to just their third victory of the season the day prior.

Instead, the Orange focused on the second game of the weekend series in which it blew a 3-1 lead in the third period. On the bus, the usual mix of jubilation and the accompanying sounds of victory were replaced with silence. Players knew to keep to themselves, it didn’t have to be said.

“That ride back was kind of tough,” SU defender Larissa Martyniuk said.

The players asked themselves one question: What just happened?

In what has become a continuing trend this season, third period collapses have led Syracuse (3-6-3, 3-2-1 College Hockey America) to only nine points in its first 12 games. That’s its second lowest total since the program began in 2008, when its first 12 games resulted in only six points.

During the 2016 season, SU has a minus-three goal differential in the third period. Six times this season, the Orange has conceded a third period goal that has resulted in either a draw or a loss. The third period collapse against Mercyhurst marked the third weekend in a row in which an Orange defensive gaffe cost the team victory in the final five minutes of the game.

“Once again, we found a way to lose a game,” head coach Paul Flanagan said. “Pretty scary to see a team fall apart. As coaches you just watch it unravel. It’s very disconcerting that there’s a sense of panic on our part.”

Syracuse lacks the confidence and conviction of other sports teams, Flanagan said, referencing the New England Patriots. Between Mercyhurst’s equalizer and game-winning goal, the Orange had two power play opportunities. Flanagan described the power plays as some of the worst he has seen in a long time.

In 12 games this season, the Orange is 0-5 in one-goal contests. In the 36 games played last season, SU had a record of 7-6 in one-goal games.

Heading into the third period against Mercyhurst with a 3-1 lead, Flanagan warned his team to play with composure. But his team didn’t listen.

“Right off the bat in the third period, they were all over us,” Flanagan said. “We faltered, withered.”

Both Martyniuk and Flanagan believe that the team’s issues are mental rather than a lack of conditioning. A constant barrage of defensive zone breakdowns, momentum-killing penalties and missed assignments are all symptoms of a team unable to finish out the full game. But specifically in regard to the blown game at Mercyhurst, SU defender Megan Quinn could not single out a reason as to why her team fell apart.

“Maybe we were on the bus already,” Quinn said.

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