What caused the Syracuse Cougars ice hockey team to fall out of first place in Division I’s American Conference were not the things that took place in regulation.
A pair of overtime defeats proved the culprit, as the Cougars fell 3-2 to Rome Free Academy on Jan. 10 and, in its next outing at Meachem Rink, met even more frustration in last Tuesday night’s 1-0 OT loss to Baldwinsville.
These same two teams met a month earlier, on Dec. 6, at Lysander as part of the Bobby Conklin Memorial Tournament. Syracuse won that time, 3-2, en route to the tournament title, and the Bees had played close games ever since, with nine of its first 11 games decided by one goal or less.
This one would prove close, too. Throughout regulation, the pace was furious, but Syracuse owned most of the possession time, especially in the second and third periods, spending long sessions in the Bees’ end, getting all kinds of opportunities to put the puck in the net.
Yet every single shot got turned away, as B’ville goaltender Nick Harper enjoyed one of the finest games of his career. At least 20 quality scoring chances dried up as Harper, by game’s end, had amassed 49 saves.
For his part, Syracuse goalie Sam Walsh was also tough, making 28 saves. And he nearly pulled off the shutout, but with nine second left in the five-minute OT period, Garrett Gray, off a pass from Tyler Church, beat Walsh for the game-winner.
With little time to fret, the Cougars turned around Thursday to face another Division I contender, Liverpool, and played overtime for the third consecutive game, and while it did not win, it at least salvaged a 3-3 tie with the Warriors.
At least in this game, Syracuse got on the board, doing so in the first period. Liverpool matched it, though, and did the same in the second period by finding the net twice to counter the Cougars’ production.