Kevin Rice caught Dylan Donahue’s pass in overtime, turned toward the goal and rifled a shot that found its way past Virginia goalie Dan Marino.
Rice hoisted his hands in the air and immediately “Tebowed” before getting pulverized by his teammates.
The sophomore attack’s game-winning goal with one minute remaining in overtime ignited No. 16 Syracuse (2-1) to a thrilling 9-8 win over No. 6 Virginia (4-1) on Friday night at the Carrier Dome in front of 5,388 fans. Sparked by Matt Harris, JoJo Marasco and Donahue, the Orange used a 3-0 third quarter to pull ahead of the Cavaliers 7-6. After UVA responded and sent the game into overtime, Rice delivered the dagger.
“I’ve been watching Syracuse and Virginia my entire life,” said Rice, who grew up in nearby Skaneateles, N.Y. “To be a part of that game and to be a part of a game like that was really special to me.”
Rice stood five yards out on the left side of the field when Donahue made his move. The sharpshooter waited patiently in what he called his “sweet spot.” When the pass came, Rice reared up and cannoned the ball past Marino.
“Well if I had to pick a spot on the field to shoot from it would be right there,” Rice said with a smile.
After trailing 6-4 at the half, Syracuse defender Brian Megill said he was frustrated going into the locker room. SU jumped out to a 4-2 lead but then surrendered four consecutive goals to the high-octane UVA offense.
Owen Van Arsdale’s strike with five seconds left in the second quarter was the cherry on top of a disappointing half for the SU defense.
“You can ask Bobby (Wardwell), I used some choice language that I don’t use often,” Megill said. “I think it really hit the guys home.”
Syracuse responded with its second 4-0 run of the game, scoring three goals in the third quarter and halting Virginia’s momentum.
Marasco and Donahue each scored in the final 1:10 on left-handed lasers, as SU reclaimed the lead, 7-6, heading into the final frame. Marasco’s strike gave him 100 points on his career and knotted the game at six. Matt Pratt extended the lead to two when he zipped a shot past Marino from 10 yards out early in the fourth.
The Orange defense, meanwhile, held Virginia’s explosive offense scoreless in the third, led by Megill, who shut down Virginia’s leading scorer Mark Cockerton. Everywhere Cockerton went the Syracuse defense swarmed him, strategically implementing periodic double – even triple – teams to stop the prolific goal scorer.
“We prepared for Virginia all week and I thought we were playing kind of soft in the first half,” Megill said. “It really showed how good our players can be with our backs against the wall. My hat goes off to all the guys, especially on the offense, for really buckling down.”
But that buckle came unclamped minutes later. Virginia was far from finished.
After UVA’s Charlie Streep cut the deficit to one on an unassisted goal, Matt White tied the score at eight less than a minute later as the Syracuse faithful stood stunned. Hands rested on heads and those heads shook from side to side, as the previously rambunctious crowd turned silent.
Despite a slew of chances, Syracuse was unable to score in the game’s final minutes, as the contest went into overtime.
SU head coach John Desko implored his team to not force shots against the Cavalier zone all night. Virginia’s unyielding defense made it tough for the Orange to generate looks at the end of regulation and during overtime.
“The zone will always slow you down,” Desko said. “When a team plays zone defense you really have to work hard to get high-quality shots. We preach to our guys when we practice zone offense, ‘Don’t force it in there right away.’”
And on the game’s final play the Orange didn’t force anything. Instead, Syracuse worked the ball around, holding for the last shot, and this time its patience proved virtuous. Rice’s game-winner sent the fans into a frenzy, as SU picked up just its third win over the Cavaliers in the teams’ last 11 meetings.
Megill said he was thrilled that Syracuse held Virginia under 10 goals and he said the Cavaliers weren’t used to playing against a team that brought as much pressure as the Orange.
When Rice converted, Megill sprinted toward the net to congratulate his goalkeeper, as jubilation ended on Syracuse’s side in a back-and-forth game.
“It was amazing,” Megill said. “To get that final goal, especially after losing to Albany in double overtime, it feels like you just won a national championship.”
Published on March 2, 2013 at 12:18 am
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