From press releases -- PHILADELPHIA – All it takes is one goal and junior Derek Maltz provided it. He picked up a rebound in front of the Denver cage and scored with 19.2 seconds left to propel No. 1 seed Syracuse (16-3) to 9-8 victory against the fourth-seeded Pioneers (14-5) in the NCAA semifinals Saturday, May 25 at Lincoln Financial Field. Maltz's goal capped a furious rally that saw the Orange tally five of the game's last six goals to overcome a 7-4 deficit entering the fourth quarter.
The Orange will face Duke on Monday, May 27 at 1 p.m. in the national championship game. The Blue Devils defeated Cornell, 16-14, in Saturday's first semifinal.
"I think these guys have done a terrific job, and to keep their composure and play the way we did at the end of the game, and the way the defense played in the second half was very good," SU head coach John Desko said. "Dom (Lamolinara) was good in the cage at the end, too. We look forward to playing Duke."
Senior JoJo Marasco led the Orange offense with five points (two goals, three assists). Classmate Luke Cometti recorded his third hat trick of the season, finishing with a team-best three goals, including the game-tying tally with 59 seconds to play. Lamolinara totaled eight saves, including six in the second half, to help spark an Orange defense that only allowed three goals after intermission.
Syracuse trailed nearly the entire game. The Orange went down 3-0 early and fell behind by as many as four (6-2) early in the third quarter before finding a way to win its seventh game by one goal.
It was all Denver early as Eric Adamson staked the Pioneers to a 2-0 advantage with a pair of goals in the game's first eight minutes. An unassisted goal by Chase Carraro with 2:28 left in the opening period extended the Denver margin to three.
With under a minute left to play in the first, Cometti finally provided some much needed momentum for the Orange. He ducked inside his defender and scored with 53 seconds left to close the gap to 3-1 heading in into the second quarter, however, the Pioneers notched two of the three goals scored in the second frame to take a 5-2 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Eric Law to put Denver ahead 6-2 before Marasco and redshirt freshman Dylan Donahue tallied consecutive goals to keep the Orange within striking distance. Marasco found the cage unassisted and Donahue tickled the twine during a 30-second clock warning to trim the Pioneers' margin to 6-4 with 4:30 remaining in the period.
Denver briefly halted the Syracuse run as Taylor Young closed the third-period scoring by finishing a Colin Scott pass to extend the Denver lead to 7-4.
Then, with its back to the wall, Syracuse came alive.
Marasco fired a pass across the crease to Maltz who buried the shot to pull the Orange within two. Junior Scott Loy followed by depositing a shot past Denver goalie Jamie Faus with 8:17 remaining to make it a 7-6 game.
After Law scored his third of the day to put Denver ahead 8-6 at the 5:17 mark, Marasco took advantage of the first extra-man chance by either team, scoring seven seconds after the penalty to close the gap to 8-7.
Cometti completed his hat trick by scoring off another Marasco feed with 59 ticks left on the clock and freshman Cal Paduda won the ensuing faceoff to gain possession for the Orange. Cometti unloaded a shot that was stopped by Faus, but Faus did not control the rebound. Maltz picked up the ground ball delivered his third game-winning goal of the year with 19.2 seconds left.
Denver won the faceoff and called a timeout with seven seconds remaining, but the Pioneers never got off a shot and the Orange advanced to the NCAA title game for the 17th time in its illustrious history.
Law led the Pioneers with three goals and Adamson had two. Pioneer goalie Ryan LaPlante made a season-high 13 saves in the first half to help Denver gain the early lead before he was replaced by Faus who made four saves in last 30 minutes.
Syracuse outshot Denver, 40-24, for the game and held a 24-23 edge in ground balls.
The Orange improved its record in NCAA semifinal games to 17-10 and the team own 65- 21 all-time in the NCAA postseason.
Game Notes: The Orange advances to the NCAA title game for the first time since 2009 when it defeated Cornell, 10-9, in overtime to win its 11th NCAA national championship … Syracuse's 16 wins this season ties the school record … Desko improved to 31-8 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 14-5 in head-to-head coaching matchups with Denver's Bill Tierney … Syracuse is now 7-3 in one-goal games this season and 5-1 this year when trailing after three quarters.