Going into the CHA tournament final yesterday, Syracuse had a 10-8-2 in-conference record. They had only beaten Robert Morris once this season--in overtime, back in January--and had just been swept by the Colonials, losing 0-5 and 2-4. Robert Morris’ top scorer, Jaycee Gebhard, has more points than the top two Syracuse players combined. It’s safe to say the Orange were underdogs.
But they won emphatically, and in the process, they secured their first NCAA tournament bid in team history.
Robert Morris had a clear advantage in this game, and not just because they took the season series against the Orange. Jaycee Gebhard is a playmaking machine, having racked up 51 points over 36 games played this season, 32 of which were assists. The two highest-scoring Syracuse players heading into the final were senior defender Allie Munroe with 27 points and freshman forward Abby Moloughney with 22. Add to that the historically solid Robert Morris blueline and goaltender Ariel DeSmet’s .920 SV% and one would certainly have predicted, at best, a close game. Through the first period, that was true. After 20 minutes the Colonials and the Orange were tied 1-1 with goals from Allie Olnowich and Caitlyn Sadowy.
The Orange scored four unanswered goals in the second period in a matter of about eleven minutes. The goals came from four different skaters: Kristen Siermachesky, Brooke Avery, Savannah Rennie and Lauren Bellefontaine. Throughout the game, the Orange shared the responsibility of creating and finishing scoring chances, with only one player (Jessica Digirolamo) recording more than one assist and three players (Brooke Avery, Allie Olnowich, and Lauren Bellefontaine) recording both a goal and an assist.
The team won more faceoffs, drew more penalties, and finished off the third period with a powerplay goal from their highest scoring forward. Junior goaltender Ady Cohen, who played only 12 games this season and had entered the game with a .889 SV%, faced 26 shots and posted up an impressive .923 SV%. All this to say, when the Orange beat Robert Morris yesterday, punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time, it wasn’t a heroic effort by one or two players to push them past a conference rival--it was a team win, and it looked that way.
On top of all that? It was freshman forward Lauren Bellefontaine’s birthday.
Statistics in this article were taken from Syracuse Women’s Hockey website and Eliteprospects.