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Saturday, Apr 01, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Syracuse Topples #1 Notre Dame in ACC Thriller

SOUTH BEND, IN — Last season, Notre Dame crashed Syracuse’s Centennial Celebration in the Carrier Dome. Then-freshman Ryder Garnsey posted five goals, helping the Fighting Irish to a resounding 17-7 victory. On Saturday, however, it was the Orange’s defense that rose to the occasion as John Desko and company upset No. 1 Notre Dame, 11-10. It was the Orange’s fifth-straight one-goal win and the seventh one-goal game played this season.

It was the defense for both teams that showed up early, as the game remained scoreless until Notre Dame’s Brendan Gleason found the back of the net with 7:50 left in the first quarter.

Then the floodgates opened. The two teams combined for four goals over a 67 second stretch late in the first frame. In the second quarter, the teams traded goals back and forth with no team taking greater than a two goal lead.

The Orange used a three goal spurt, capped off by a Stephen Rhefuss feed to a cutting Ryan Simmons to grab 6-4 advantage. At the half, Scott Firman, Austin Fusco and the rest of the Syracuse defense had held Notre Dame’s offensive threats Ryder Garnsey and Sergio Perkovic shotless and without a point.

“It was a team effort more than anything,” Firman said. “We came in, I think we did a good job scouting and I think communication was good all day and that was huge too.”

But, in the second half, even after the Orange took an 8-5 lead early in the third quarter, the team’s mistakes allowed Notre Dame to gain some ground.

“We took some bad shots,” Desko said. “We took some shots going down the right alley. We know the goalie is right handed and we threw it right in his stick on two or three of the shots. Had a couple of turnovers and on top of that winning some faceoffs, to have those turnovers, that’s putting a lot of pressure on our defense.

Garnsey and Perkovic nearly carried the Irish to a victory as at least one of the two had a hand in the team’s final five goals, including back-to-back tallies that knotted the contest 9-9 and brought the Arlotta Stadium crowd to its feet.

In the fourth quarter, with Syracuse holding on to a one-goal lead, Notre Dame grabbed possession, looking to tie the game. Instead, Pierre Byrne tossed the ball out of bounds, giving possession back to the Orange. Less than two minutes later, Nick Mariano scored his second goal of the quarter, and fourth on the day, to give Syracuse the 11-9 lead.

Notre Dame would not go quietly, however, as they got the ball back with under a minute remaining down just one. With already two goals on the day, Brendan Gleason got some separation from his defender and had just Evan Molloy to beat, but Molloy was up to the task.

“I mean, he made some really good saves,” Desko said. “I checked the stat sheet at half time and I thought — ‘that doesn’t seem right to me’, but I thought he really made some big saves. He just seemed very confident in there and made some of the saves look easy.”

The Irish took a timeout with about 12 seconds and once more change to draw even, but the Orange defense forced Notre Dame’s tenth and final turnover of the contest, sealing the victory. After the win, Coach Desko spoke highly of his team’s composure.

“We haven’t panicked, it seems like, in the fourth quarter of these games,” Desko said. “I’m not sure I like being in all of these one-goal games, but if we’re going to come out on top of them, I’ll take it. And we played like we’ve experienced that this year so far.”

Syracuse will return to action on Wednesday when they play the next installment in the Kraus-Simmons Trophy rivalry against Hobart in Geneva, New York at 7 p.m.