Syracuse ice hockey hones already-strong penalty kill ahead of Penn State games


first_imgGoalkeeper Jenn Gilligan approaches each penalty kill with the same mindset she approaches every minute on the ice — stop the puck.While her tactical approach may change by trying to keep players on one side of her or falling on loose pucks to maximize whistles, Gilligan really just wants to keep the score stagnant.“Finding the puck at all times is my goal,” Gilligan said. “Once I see the puck, I’ve got to stop it. I want to get it, that way my team has a chance to breathe, relax and regroup.”Gilligan and Syracuse (1-2-4) hope to continue their strong penalty kill this weekend in two home games against Penn State (3-3-2), Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. at Tennity Ice Pavilion. The Orange has allowed six goals out of the 31 penalty-kill opportunities it has had this season, stopping opponents 83.3 percent of the time. Fifty-four of the 229 shots Syracuse has faced came on power-play chances.“Typically you like to be at 90 percent with your kill. I think we’re close and where we like to be,” said head coach Paul Flanagan.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“What we look at is if we’re making our reads, getting out to shooters and staying in our shooting lanes to block shots. I think we’ve done these things so far.”The Nittany Lions have converted three of their 31 power-play chances into goals, including two goals in their last three games and the Orange will try to stop the visitors from continuing their recent success. Flanagan said he’s satisfied with his team’s penalty kill and thinks it is one of the team’s strong points.Practicing defending power plays is so important because of the nature of ice hockey, Flanagan said. Being methodical, precise and disciplined can make a huge difference when it comes time to execute in games.“It’s the one thing in the sport you can really choreograph — special teams,” Flanagan said. “Our game is so spontaneous that when you’re killing penalties, you have a specific job to do and you’ve got to go out and do it together.”Mainly, the team works in practice by running five-on-four drills, which help the team get used to game situations. Flanagan said the team doesn’t work on many penalty kill drills, but that shot blocking is critical to the unit’s success. Sometimes just throwing bodies, sticks and skates into the passing lanes can be the difference between preventing a goal and conceding one.“When we don’t block shots, we aren’t successful,” said Allie LaCombe, a senior forward. “When we do block shots, we kill almost every penalty every time.”Flanagan said the other key to a solid penalty kill is to avoid penalties in the first place. The team needs to be more disciplined in staying out of the box, which means being less aggressive on the boards.The Orange averages 4.5 penalties per game, but has only committed five in the past two games, a sign that the team is doing better recently to limit opponents from taking advantage of an undermanned front.“The way this season’s been going, I think it’s crucial to kill penalties. We’ve had those four ties and they could’ve been wins if we had stopped a few power plays,” said Melissa Piacentini, a forward Flanagan puts on the ice for most penalty kills. “We need to be smarter and not have them in the first place.”Although the head coach is content, the team hasn’t won since its season opener and looks to improve in any way possible. Penalty kills can be that small difference the team needs.“As the season goes on, everyone’s power play gets better,” Flanagan said. “We need to mirror that defensively and keep improving.” Comments Published on October 30, 2014 at 12:11 am Contact Liam: [email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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