Syracuse’s season ends with 4-3 overtime loss to Mercyhurst in CHA championship

first_imgBUFFALO, N.Y. — Nicole Renault lay on the ice, her body sprawled out in front of goalkeeper Jenn Gilligan, who sunk her head down. Thirty minutes earlier, the senior duo was as happy as they’d been all year after a game-tying goal forced overtime with 30 seconds to go.But as they skated off the ice, the reality of defeat overthrew the glimmer of promise that was present for Syracuse throughout the game, and the season as a whole.The Orange (19-14-3, 14-4-2 College Hockey America) seemed destined to win its first ever CHA tournament championship. It had the returning senior class, one of the strongest in program history, and the development of its young underclassmen, including reigning CHA Rookie of the Year Stephanie Grossi. But, for the second straight time, the Orange’s season ended with a loss in overtime in the title game, this time to Mercyhurst (19-10-5, 14-3-3), 4-3, on Saturday evening at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York.“That’s what we gotta figure out,” SU head coach Paul Flanagan said, his head down, looking at the ground. “Just what it takes, that whole recipe to finish games, finish teams off.”Grossi, the hero of Friday’s triple-overtime thriller against Penn State, pushed the Orange out in front late in the second period.. The routine group hug that Syracuse does after every goal turned into a dog pile and the usually reserved Flanagan jumped up and high-fived assistant coach Brendon Knight.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut the Lakers responded quickly as Jenna Dingeldein and Sarah Hine scored within 29 seconds of each other to end the second period. Then, to start the third, Gilligan tried to grab a puck that skated behind the net but it snuck back toward Rachel Smith who poked it in past a diving Gilligan to open up a 3-1 lead. All of a sudden, the momentum that Syracuse had worked so hard to seize was ripped away.This wasn’t the first time the Orange seemed to jump ahead of its competition only to realize that it wasn’t as far ahead as it thought. SU was chosen to finish first in the CHA in a preseason coach’s poll. But the Orange struggled out of the gate, dropping three of its first five games on the year. Consistency was the issue for Syracuse, as SU couldn’t string together even just a three-game winning streak for most of the season.But things changed against Mercyhurst, which Syracuse beat for the first time in program history just last year. An overtime victory over the Lakers at the end of January sparked the Orange. The inconsistency that plagued the team throughout the whole season melted away just when it looked like Syracuse’s season was going to end as just another average effort. The Orange ended the campaign playing better hockey than it did all year long, and headed into the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak.“I think we started figuring it out as a team,” said freshmen Allie Munroe. “We were kind of late to do that … but I think once we got on that winning streak, everyone was on board.” Facebook Twitter Google+ Courtesy of Ryan Ballinger | College Hockey America The Orange had flipped the script on its season and had a chance to flip the script on the championship game. With just under three minutes left, Munroe found the back of the net to make it a 3-2 game. The same Orange bench players that were shell-shocked earlier nearly had to restrain themselves from falling over the boards.Flanagan looked over, still stoic. He was happy with the score but he knew that his team still needed one more goal to force overtime.That one came with 29.7 seconds left. Alysha Burriss corralled the puck from a Munroe rebound and snuck it past Mercyhurst’s Sarah McDonnell. It looked like Mercyhurst scored 20 seconds later, but it was ruled off after review, to the sound of applause and yells of “Yes!” from the Syracuse side. The Orange had rallied back near the end, just like it did during the regular season.Mercyhurst controlled momentum throughout much of the overtime. Save for a few Orange breakaways, the Lakers were in possession of the puck for most of the frame. As Gilligan made save after save to keep SU alive, the rest of the team grew increasingly frustrated. Renault put her stick over her head after missing a shot, Sibley put her head down in disgust on the bench after doing the same and Flanagan pumped his fists in anger after a blown Orange opportunity.But as the first overtime was winding down, Syracuse still had a chance to extend the game. That chance wouldn’t come. Dingeldein scored a goal with 4:54 to go in the frame. Mercyhurst skated towards the back corner to embrace in victory, and with each other. Many Orange players, including Sibley, put their head down during the postgame ceremony, unable to look on as the Lakers received their championship t-shirts and hats.The back-and-forth championship game mirrored the up-and-down season that Syracuse just finished, leaving the Orange still looking for the way to finish its season on a high, rather than a low.“I don’t know,” senior Melissa Piacentini said when she was asked what the missing piece is for the Orange. “I wish I did know.” Comments Published on March 5, 2016 at 6:08 pm Contact Tomer: tdlanger@syr.edu | @tomer_langerlast_img

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