April 20, 2013

Syracuse Edges G-Town In Another Narrow Affair

by Stephen Bailey | LaxMagazine.com

WASHINGTON — Black face paint smeared across his sweaty cheeks as he stood aside Georgetown's Multi-Sport Field, Brian Megill had lived up to his halftime deliverance: refuse to lose.

With a one-goal lead and a half-minute left to play, Syracuse defenseman Steve Ianzito broke his stick and sprinted off the field, leaving the Orange zone in an unexpected man-down position. But it responded as Matt Harris checked dodging Hoyas midfielder Dan McKinney. With Drew Jenkins quickly approaching from behind, McKinney panicked and flipped a pass over Reilly O'Connor's outstretched stick and over the endline.

"If there was a guy next to me, I was going to catch the ball and break his hand because I didn't want him to throw the ball or take a shot," Megill said. "It's basically playing a man-down defense and getting ready to roam. Luckily Harris threw that last check, he made him throw a bad pass and (O'Connor) couldn't reel it in for the catch."

In a season that's featured an NCAA-high eight one-goal games, Syracuse (10-3, 4-1 Big East) received two goals from Derek Maltz and Luke Cometti to escape Georgetown (5-8, 2-3) 9-8 after almost blowing a three-goal lead with 2:01 left. McKinney and Charles McCormick scored two goals in a 48-second span to put the Orange in a position goaltender Dominic Lamolinara said they harped on avoiding during the six-hour bus ride down Interstate 81.

The team was focused on the important of an easy win — it hasn't won by more than a one-score margin since a 17-5 thrashing of Canisius on March 29 — but Lamolinara admits that while he was disappointed this one came down to the wire as well, the fact that SU has now won five of those eight barnburners bodes well for their postseason confidence.

And to close this one out by bearing down defensively and denying the Hoyas an equalizer in a frenetic man-down situation made it all the sweeter.

"I actually couldn't believe it," Orange head coach John Desko said, "because I thought we were playing pretty good on defense, team defense, individual defense, and then all of a sudden – nothing worse could have happened at that time."

But for Syracuse, there was a lengthy stretch of time when nothing could go right. The Orange committed four consecutive second-quarter turnovers as part of an 18:46 drought.

First it was Ianzito throwing cross-field behind Jojo Marasco with 7:49 left and the Hoyas ahead 5-4. Then Cometti replicated the blunder looking for Maltz 2:28 later before Marasco dropped a pass and Scott Loy tripped over his own feet before dribbling out a pass to Georgetown defender William Flatley.

If McCormack connected on one of his two shots or Travis Comeau, who tallied two of Georgetown's first three goals, didn't turn the ball over with 2:16 left in the half, the Hoyas may have been able to seize momentum entering the break.

But with the score still 5-4, Megill took that 15-minute intermission as a chance to ask his teammates a question.

"I looked into everyone's eyes at halftime and I asked them if they liked losing," Megill said. "Everyone looked right back at me and said, 'What are you talking about?'

"'Because we're still losing. We lost the last game (13-12 to Hobart) and we're still losing. Do you guys enjoy losing?' And they all said no."

Rice found Maltz on an in-cut from the right doorstep — an exact replica of Georgetown's first score — to tie the game 4:26 into the third quarter. After Hoyas faceoff specialist Tyler Knarr won the ensuing draw and took it himself for a goal five seconds later, Cometti and Kevin Rice scored on overhead lasers to give SU a 7-6 lead with 6:15 left in the frame.

A Hakeem Lecky 15-yard strike pushed it to 8-6 4:02 later and Cometti sailed home another 2:04 into the fourth as the heavily favored Orange appeared to seize momentum for good.

But after Georgetown defender Chris Nourse stripped Dylan Donahue and took off upfield with 2:22 to play, the Hoyas — who had not scored in 23:30 — came to life. McKinney beat Lamolinara 19 seconds later, Knarr won the next faceoff and McCormack buried a follow-up opportunity in the bottom left of the cage to pull Georgetown within 9-8 with 1:13 to go.

Everything was falling into place for the Hoyas to complete the comeback after Zac Guy beat Megill to the next draw, but with 22 seconds to go and the quickening feet of Drew Jenkins bearing down on him, McKinney committed an unforced turnover and the Orange cleared.

"When it becomes a hectic situation at the end, you hope that a senior would shoot the ball," Georgetown coach Kevin Warne said. "I'm not sure what Danny's thought process was."

As time expired and the Orange players celebrated walking off the field, Georgetown's Joseph Bucci leaned forward in disappointment, hands on his knees behind the SU cage. Midfielder Grant Fisher stood at midfield with a stick over his head. The Hoyas had a chance.

But in their last regular-season matchup as Big East foes, before Syracuse transitions to the ACC next year, Georgetown crumbled while Megill and the Orange held strong when it mattered most.

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