The Power Play is the Achilles Heel for SU Women’s Ice Hockey
By John Dales
Citrus TV Women’s Ice Hockey Beat Reporter
In any sport, results at the end of the year are determined by a culmination of the small things that go into every single play. Great teams master the fundamentals. In the sport of hockey, every faceoff, pass, shot, etc. can make a world of difference throughout the length of the season.
In the case of the Syracuse women’s ice hockey team, the power play tells a big story. First off, the Orange draw a fair amount of power plays — 11th most in the country, in fact. However, SU rarely capitalizes on that advantage when it occurs. The Orange power play percentage is currently .131. Out of the 107 power plays they have drawn on the year, they have scored on 14 of them. The Orange will not be playing in the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year if that percentage stays as low as it is right now.
These struggles on the power play have manifested themselves recently. Over their last five games, the Orange are 0-16 on power play opportunities. Over this span, SU has gone 2-3. However, two of those losses came by just one goal. If Syracuse was able to make good on opportunities when they have an extra attacker on the ice, those two losses (to Mercyhurst and Penn State) easily could have gone the other way. At the very least, SU could have salvaged one point out of those two contests. There’s no way around it; the Orange simply have to be better when given these opportunities. League play is ramping up as the postseason quickly approaches, and teams simply do not get extra chances come late February or early March. It’s much easier said than done, but SU simply needs to find the back of the net when the opponent has one less player on the ice.
On the other side, SU has put themselves behind the proverbial 8-ball by giving the opposition tons of power play chances. The Orange have the 7th most penalty minutes in all of NCAA hockey. To make matters worse, their penalty kill is nothing special. The Orange are slightly below average in penalty-kill percentage at .813 in respect to the rest of the NCAA.
So what do all these percentages mean? In short, Syracuse gets a decent amount of power play opportunities. For the most part, they do not score on these chances, especially recently. On top of that, SU is a physical team that gets sent to the penalty box much more than their opponents. Once down a player, the SU penalty kill is not terrible. However, it definitely is not good enough to constantly overcome the competitive disadvantage of having one less body on the ice.
All hope is not lost, though. Syracuse has shown flashes of potential this season. When facing off against Mercyhurst on January 10th, the Orange dominated the game and won 8-3. SU scored three power play goals on four attempts. That’s an outstanding result against one of the top teams in their conference. On top of that, the Orange penalty kill blanked Mercyhurst on all five of their power play opportunities. They also did it against Penn State this past Saturday. The Nittany Lions had five power plays, but could not get a single shot past Syracuse’s Allison Small. SU has solid goalies in Small and Ady Cohen that can occasionally bail their team out when needed.
It’s the isolated incidents like these that can give an 8-16-1 team like Syracuse the belief that it can compete against any other team in the country. The talent is there for this Syracuse team to make another run to the NCAA Tournament. The only question is if they will be able to get out of their own way first.
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