Noreaster? No problem. The Syracuse Orange made the trip out to Long Island to visit Hofstra on Tuesday night in a cold, wet, and windy game. It was the first meeting between the two teams since 2003, with Hofstra earning upset. On a cold night, Syracuse overcame a slow start to pull away in the second and third quarters, winning 16-8.
Syracuse came into the day on a four game losing streak, having taken on some of the nation’s best in Maryland, North Carolina, Duke, and John’s Hopkins. A young team with loads of potential, Syracuse fans are hoping the future might arrive early this season, and snapping the skid would be the next step. Billy Dwan, one of the highest ranked defenders in the freshman class, would get his first start in place of the injured Landon Clary.
Hofstra came into the game at 2-4, most recently having lost to #15 Villanova. Hofstra’s record is deceiving, two of their losses were by one goal to Navy and Michigan, both of whom have appeared in the Top 20 this year.
With weather serving as a possible equalizer, Hofstra would hope the old adage of “Tuesday is the for the hunter” would prove true on short rest.
In the first quarter, Hofstra came out of the gates firing. Justin Sykes had the games first two goals, giving the Pride an early two goal lead. Owen Hiltz would hit two posts and see Mac Gates make a nice save on his third effort, as Syracuse generated look book couldn’t find the net. John Madsen would score on a low to high rip from 12 yards to push the lead to 3-0, forcing a timeout from the Orange.
Syracuse would battle back from there to 3-2, with nice goals from Jackson Birtwistle and Hiltz. Spallina made his presence felt in a place he may not be as known for it, on the ride. He put his shoulder into a clearing player once, threw a stick check that took the stick out of a clearing player’s hands another time, and knocked down a clearing pass a third. Each of those resulted in great looks at goal, with the third leading to a goal from Michael Leo. At the end of the first, a midfield heave from LSM Saam Olexo beat Gates to give the Orange a 5-4 lead after one, despite their rocky start.
"I thought our guys responded well to the energy Hofstra brought. They came to compete, showed up, and jumped up on us," said Syracuse Head Coach Gary Gait.
A quick goal from Thompson on a nice feed from Hiltz pushed it to 6-4, and Syracuse began to look focused and comfortable. Alex Simmons would score unassisted on a dodge down the alley to make it 7-4, and both teams would get stuck there for several minutes.
Gates and Mark made some good saves, and both teams had empty offensive possessions. A low angle effort from Spallina at the halftime buzzer would miss high, and the Orange took their 7-4 lead into half time.
The star of the second half, Spallina was able to finish after cutting to the back door while his man was ball watching. Thompson found him for an easy dunk. Griffin Cook would score unassisted on a righty sweep quickly after, and Syracuse pushed their lead to 9-4 early in the third.
"I remember scoring goals on this field when I was five or six. My uncle played here, my dad was the D coach. It was cool to be out there, on the winning side of things after being on a four game skid," said Spallina
After a sequence that resulted in penalties to three players, two of whom were on Hofstra, Syracuse went to a 5 on 4. Hiltz was able to convert that following a crisp feed from Leo. On the ensuing 5v5 faceoff, Hofstra would win, and Colton Rudd would stop the Hofstra scoring drought with a rip from the point on a break. However, Syracuse would answer quickly, as Hofstra committed yet another penalty, sending Syracuse to the man up, where Spallina converted just four seconds in.
Another foul would follow, this one on Brandon Aviles, which allowed Rory Jones to score up for Hofstra. However Thompson answered immediately for Syracuse, keeping their lead at six goals.
As offenses traded possessions, it was a foul on Spallina that gave Hofstra an opening on man up. The Orange man down would hold however, and the 12-6 lead stayed firm as the teams entered the 4th quarter.
Leo would open the 4th quarter scoring with an unassisted goal from an invert. But Hofstra would answer, and hang around with a goal from Matt Elder. Spallina would net another as the beneficiary of a well run fast break, completing his hat trick and registering his 6th point of the night. Danny DeSanti would score a beauty of a pole goal, spinning away from a defender and scoring while falling down, but Hofstra struggled to string together strong possessions or scoring runs after their 3-0 opening lead. After the pole goal, Cole Kirst found Hiltz on a scramble play, letting Hiltz shoot uncovered from the middle of the field from 10 yards.
Spallina was the star of the night, finishing with seven points. Even Hofstra head coach Seth Tierney had to tip his hat.
"I’m proud of him. He’s had a lot of publicity, people go after him, and he stands tall every game," said Tierney.
For Spallina, there was nostalgia to the night, and it all hit once he found the net.
"It sunk in after that first goal. That distinctive Hofstra announcer, he did Lizards game, I was used to hearing him say Paul [Rabil]'s name, Rob's [Pannell] name, for him to say my name was pretty cool," Spallina said of the atmosphere. Between his family and Team 91, his club program, over 70 tickets were accounted for.
On the night, Hofstra would commit five penalties while Syracuse would commit eight.
It was the play between the lines that hurt Hofstra. They outshot Syracuse, won the faceoff battle, and the ground ball battle. But they cleared just 10/16, and committed 20 turnovers. They also struggled on the man up, as Syracuse committed 8 fouls on the night but Hofstra only scored on the man up twice. Syracuse was able to capitalize on those plays to overcome the shooting and faceoff deficit with better quality looks, and finished them consistently to deliver a win.