February 29, 2012

Smith, No. 1 Northwestern Escape Syracuse With OT Win

by Stephen Bailey | LaxMagazine.com

Reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Shannon Smith scored five goals, including one in overtime of top-ranked Northwestern's 11-9 win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome Wednesday night.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Shannon Smith torched the Syracuse defense Wednesday night.

Working primarily with Casey Bocklet, the pair manipulated the Orange defense both in front and behind the circle as top-ranked Northwestern escaped an upset attempt from No. 9 Syracuse.

"Syracuse played great on defense," Smith said. "Me and Casey were able to get a little stuff working in the second half around the crease and that's just from us playing well with one another and I think their defense played well the whole entire game."

The top-ranked Wildcats (3-0) won 11-9 in front of 887 in the Carrier Dome behind a stellar effort from Smith. She tallied five goals and an assist on the evening before providing the game-sealing goal with 3:01 remaining in overtime.

But the Orange (1-2) pushed Northwestern to the edge, running out to a 6-2 advantage in the opening 26:30, and leading 6-3 at halftime. Katie Webster recorded an early hat trick, while junior attack Michelle Tumolo beat Northwestern goaltender Brianne LoManto twice in a span of 44 seconds.

The Wildcats scored six consecutive goals to start the second half and led 9-6 before Syracuse responded with three straight in the final 4:16 to force overtime.

"It's a game of runs, and I knew that," SU head coach Gary Gait said. "It was a good position to be in, 6-2, and I was happy about that, but against the defending national champions, the best of the best there, they weren't just going to sit there and let us keep building the lead.

"They stepped up and made a run of their own and made it tough for us."

Bocklet struck first 5:30 into the second half, and Smith followed soon after.

Standing behind the net, Smith watched as Bocklet set a pick SU defender Jill Cammett in front of the net, sealing a lane for Smith. Before SU's Becca Block could step up, Smith had already snuck the ball in past SU goaltender Alyssa Costantino's left shoulder.

"That's something me and Casey practice on, and Kelly really trusts us with it," Smith said. "I think we worked really well around the crease setting picks for one another and being patient enough and waiting for the right opportunity for that opening."

Smith struck twice more in the half, and created opportunity after opportunity operating a two-player game with Bocklet as Northwestern built the 9-6 advantage with 9:54 to play.

"I think [Smith] was doing some really nice things around the crease with Casey Bocklet and things were working well there so we kind of stuck with it and we were able to take advantage of it," NW head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

It appeared the Wildcats had dodged a bullet as SU failed to convert three straight free-position shots.

But with 4:16 remaining, sophomore attack Alyssa Murray beat LoManto on a free-position attempt of her own. SU freshman Kailah Kempney won the following draw, and another Wildcats foul put Orange attack Devon Collins on the eight-meter line.

The freshman cut Northwestern's lead to just one with 3:40 to go.

And with 51 seconds left in regulation, SU junior captain Michelle Tumolo completed the comeback. Tightly wrapping around the left side of the goal, she freed herself from her mark. Tumolo then flung herself in front of the net and whipped a shot past the right side of LoManto.

"I was just trying to use the crease to get away from the girl that was face guarding me so I really tried to work around it," Tumolo said. "And I beat her over the crease and I got that shot off."

But in overtime, the Wildcats regained control.

Just over one minute into extra time, NW junior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald broke free from Syracuse defender Jill Cammett.

Streaking across the Syracuse net, from right to left, she took a feed from Bocklet and whipped a backhanded shot past the right foot of SU goaltender Kelsey Richardson, who replaced Costantino (six saves) during the second half.

Fitzgerald jumped into the arms of Smith in celebration.

Smith finished the scoring nearly two minutes later to provide the two-goal cushion, allowing her teammates to breathe a sigh of relief while simultaneously breaking the hearts of Syracuse.

"She's really good in those tough situations," Amonte Hiller said. "She puts her shots away."

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