After a late scratch to Syracuse faceoff specialist Ben Williams less than an hour before game-time, Army head coach Joe Alberici knew his team had to take advantage.
With backups Cal Paduda and freshman Dan Varello filling in at the X, Army’s David Symmes notched the game-winner with under a second left as SU lost its first game of the season, 14-13.
“[Williams is] one of the best in the game and has really gotten after us the past few years,” Alberici said. “When Williams is in there, he’s a big part of everything that they do, both offensively and defensively.”
Syracuse head coach John Desko didn’t comment on Williams’ injury, but said the team hopes to have him back next week.
In the meantime, Syracuse lost 17 of 30 faceoffs, including a 6-2 deficit in the second quarter as Army took an 8-6 lead at the half. After going 3-for-13 at the X, Desko replaced Paduda with Varello, who went 10-of-17.
“He (Varello) got down a little quicker on the ball than Cal was,” Desko said. “To his credit and to our wings, we were more aggressive in the second half. Danny did a great job of getting out to himself. With Cal not coming up with them, that was plan B, and plan B worked pretty good.”
Down 11-9 to start the fourth period, Syracuse rallied behind Varello’s wins at the X.
“When Danny started winning face-offs, it got us all going and everything started flowing better,” Jordan Evans said.
Varello won 4 of 6 faceoffs in the final quarter, and Syracuse capitalized on an Army defense down three players due to penalties to tie it at 12 with 5:24 left.
After an Army goal, Syracuse’s Nick Mariano tied it up at 13 with his third of the game nearing two minutes left, setting up Symmes’ dramatic game-winning goal.
“Our rookie face-off guy (Varello) came in and did a heck of a job in the second half,” Desko said. “We knew we were going to have to battle him and he did a nice job getting us some possessions, and with those came some goals that helped us get back into it.”
Williams’ absence was seen all over the box score.
Army’s Dan Grabher dominance at the X allowed Army to dominate shots, 47-31. Desko credited Army’s 2-3 minute possessions and extra ground balls, as well.
“Their razor picks started to work,” he said. “Things that we had prepared for all week long that we had stopped in the first half, they were able to get away with them in the second half, so we had some mental errors there.”
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