Small Holds Key to Successful Syracuse Season
By Tyler Melito
CitrusTV’s Ice Hockey Beat Reporter
Back in September, the 2020-2021 season was in jeopardy given the uncertainty with COVID-19. Ice hockey was viewed as one of the sports that it would be hard to even have a season for, given the lack of opportunities for proper social distancing, and other COVID-19 protocols to be abided by.
Here we are, however, entering the first week of December, and the Orange have already played three games this season. Although SU’s fourth game of the season against RIT was canceled over the weekend because of the coronavirus concern in the Tiger program, just getting to this point can be considered a success.
Enough about COVID, however, as I am sure we will be talking a lot more about that as we move into the new year. Through three games this season, Syracuse sits at 1-2, losing its first two games of the year to Colgate the weekend before Thanksgiving, then beating RIT on Black Friday.
Between those three games, one early trend has emerged. A trend that could bring forth great success for the Orange this season, assuming that they take full advantage of. That is the dominant play of goaltender Allison Small.
Small started her collegiate hockey career at Quinnipiac, before transferring to the Salt City midway through her sophomore season back in 2018. She really began to earn her stripes for SU during her junior season in 2019.
The one issue was that Small played in relatively limited action. She split time with Ady Cohen during the 2019-2020 season with Small starting 22 games, and Cohen starting 14. Part of the reason for this timeshare approach in net was because of the poor start Small got off to a year ago, allowing 34 goals in her first 10 games, a stretch where Syracuse went 1-9-1. That is not to say that the Ontario native would not turn things around during the second half of the season, as she finished the season allowing 15 goals in her final 12 games, for 49 on the season. Small would also finish the season with 568 saves. Meaning that of the 617 shots Small saw last year, she saved 92.1% of them.
There were questions as to how Small would respond as the full-time goalie for the Orange in what is now her senior season. Safe to say she has responded well to the task that Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan put her up too.
Through three games this season, Small has not missed a beat, allowing just seven goals on 81 shots, a save percentage of 91.4%. Diving deeper into what is already an impressive stat line, in SU’s first game against Colgate, Small saved the first 21 shots she saw before letting in a goal about 10 minutes remaining in the third period. A game where the ‘Cuse scored two goals in the first period, then was unable to do anything on offense in the final two periods and overtime.
In the second game of the season, also against Colgate, Small did allow a goal just 90 seconds into the game, but would save the next 28 shots she saw before the wall she had built up in net finally broke and the Raiders scored two goals 40 seconds within each other in the final minutes of the third period. A game where once again the offense for Syracuse provided no relief for their goalie, as the Orange were outshot 34-15.
Against RIT last week, outside of one costly mistake where she turned the puck over with two Tiger players around her, Small played virtually a perfect game, saving 14 of the 15 shots she saw in SU’s 7-1 victory.
Small is more than capable of holding down the fort in goal, as evidenced by her first three games, it will be on the offense in front of her to alleviate some of the pressure she has seen thus far in what is still a very young season.
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