|This is what "nearly 10,000" looks like, right ESPNU?|
As the #1 seed of the Tournament, the Syracuse Orange should, in theory, have had the easiest game in round one. Their opponent, unseeded Bryant University from Rhode Island, had a losing record and was only in the Tourney due to winning their conference tourney. And then Syracuse went down 4-0.
The scouting report on the Bryant Bulldogs was basically this: they lost a crap ton of games to start the season, then won a bunch in a row, including their conference championship; their face-off specialist, Kevin Massa, led the nation in face-off percentage and would frustrate the Orange at the X. And... yeah. That. The final tally in this game was 22-1. I don't think I've ever seen a face-off deficit like that.
But that 4-0 start by the Bulldogs was about as good as they would get on Sunday night. Syracuse battled back to make it 4-3 at the end of the first. The second quarter was much slower for each team on offense, Syracuse scoring twice, and Bryant just once. So if you do the math right, that's a 5-5 tie at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room for the second half, Syracuse decided to play like a #1 seed, and rattled off goals at 12:54 and 9:24 to go up by two. Bryant battled back for a score at the 7:00 mark, but Syracuse answered with two more before Bryant found the back of the net once more with just under one minute left in the third quarter.
With a 9-7 lead going into the final 15 minutes of play, Syracuse was in the driver's seat. They had battled back after a horrible spot, tied the game, and in the second half attained the lead and kept it. Though the two goal margin at this point was nothing like a landslide, with the momentum swung entirely toward Syracuse, the Orange was in a great position to wrap down the final 15 minutes. Three more goals in the final quarter assured the victory for Syracuse, and the first round win over Bryant 12-7.
For Syracuse, the top scorer was Dylan Donahue, who had three goals on four shots. Kevin Rice and Luke Cometti each had two goals. JoJo Marasco, Scott Loy, Billy Ward, Matt Walters, and Ryan Barber each scored for the Orange as well. Rice also helped with two assists, while Marasco and Ward each had one assist. It was clear that Bryant was focusing on the Marasco game, so while they tried neutralizing JoJo, the rest of the team stepped up. I gotta give a lot of credit to the coaching staff and the players of Syracuse to make the adjustments they needed to make to find a way to win.
I already mentioned it, but damn, that Massa kid is downright nasty at the X. I assume if he's cheating or otherwise doing something he's not allowed to do, that he would have been called out on it by now; so, I guess he's just really, really good. Kudos to him.
Luckily, for Syracuse, the game is decided by goals scored, not face-offs won.
Penalties in this game were few & far between: Syracuse was penalized once (and killed the EMO), while Bryant had three penalties, leading to one EMO goal for Syracuse.
Most other stats, except the aforementioned face-off margin, were pretty even. The one other exception was turnovers; Bryant lost the ball 18 times, compared to the seven mistakes by the Orange. Overall it was a rather clean game, played at a nice pace. There were several times when I felt the officials were slow to call stall warnings against Bryant, but the officials did eventually call them. I still don't get why the officials can't operate an on-field shot clock instead of having this invisible, theoretical 30-second shot clock upon calling the stall warning. But alas, I'm not a policy maker.
The win by the Orange earns them a spot in the quarterfinals, and a Saturday afternoon date in Maryland against Yale. If you want to see the updated bracket with the correct match-ups for this coming weekend, be sure to check out my bracket predictions from last week; I correctly chose the winner for all eight first-round games. Brian missed a couple games, but we can't all be perfect all the time.