Ice Hockey

Abbey Miller records her seventh shutout of the season en route to 3-0 Syracuse win

Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

Abbey Miller notched 14 saves in a big win over Mercyhurst.

Abbey Miller tries to ignore her opponent’s attempts at getting under her skin, but she can’t. She enjoys playing in games when her opponents stay chippy after the whistle and it invigorates her to play well. So when Mercyhurst began to hit after the whistle in an attempt to irritate the Orange, Miller thrived.

The Lakers were on a 2-on-1 breakaway as the clock wound down in the second period. SU defender Lindsay Eastwood bent down and utilized her 6-foot-1-inch frame to prevent the Mercyhurst skater from passing the puck. Miller readied herself when she recognized that the remaining Laker would have to shoot. The skater fired the puck, but instead of it finding the back of the net, or even Miller’s glove, it connected with the mask on Miller’s helmet that protects her face.

The puck careened off to the side boards and Syracuse made another defensive stand.

Syracuse’s (11-11-5, 10-3-2 College Hockey America) suffocating defense shined Friday night as the Orange handily defeated Mercyhurst (10-17-2, 6-8-1), 3-0 at Tennity Ice Pavilion. Miller recorded her seventh shutout of the season, and tallied 14 saves with ease and propelled the Orange to a victory.

“I get a little fired up,” Miller said of playing Mercyhurst. “I play better.”

Two weekends ago when the Orange battled then-No.7 Robert Morris, Miller was challenged with an onslaught of shots. On Friday, the Lakers failed to drum up the same amount of pressure as the Syracuse defenders forced their opponents into multiple poor shot attempts. Of Mercyhurst’s 26 shot attempts, the junior goalie only had to stop 14.

Early in the second period, a Mercyhurst attacker attempted to catch Miller off guard. The Laker’s shot went wide, trailing behind the net. Miller jutted out her glove and caught the puck anyway. On this night, as SU head coach Paul Flanagan likes to say, it was “Miller Time.”

After realizing a tendency in the Lakers’ offense when studying film, the Orange focused on body positioning to disrupt shots. Mercyhurst shots flew past Miller’s net and rattled off the boards behind her. Sometimes the puck even connected with the glass, the loud sharp bang a result of Syracuse successfully enacting its strategy.

“We didn’t want to be passive at all,” SU defender Larissa Martyniuk said. “We know that they make mistakes under pressure.”

In the opening frame, the third-place team in the conference tested Miller by sending pucks from behind the net to in front of the crease to catch her out of position. The Anoka, Minnesota, native called upon her training from this past summer when she worked on defending this exact tactic. Miller consistently used her stick to disrupt the passing lane, stifling the Laker attack.

The Orange defense complimented Miller’s shutout with active sticks and hustle plays to every loose puck. From the SU bench, Flanagan urged his defense to “get out there” and his team responded. When the Lakers used a strong fore-check to press and aggravate SU’s transition game, Miller showcased the composure that won her the starting job earlier this season.

“She knows what she’s capable of,” Flanagan said. “Hopefully she can carry us to a championship.”

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