There's something about a cozy crowd of thousands rubbing elbows at the Onondaga County War Memorial when the Syracuse Crunch is on a roll, sure. But everybody around here knows that owner Howard Dolgon dreams of far more than that. Ever since he brought American Hockey League pucks back to the Salt City in 1994, the guy from downstate has made no qualms about planning events that allow his teams to wander away from that rink that sits along State Street to take a shot for for something that includes these two words in the title. Biggest and Ever.
The Syracuse Orange hasn’t had the most impressive offensive start to the season, by any metric. But back home in the Carrier Dome, the Orange got a glimpse that it could be worse.
A lot worse.
The Loyola Greyhounds missed their first 13 shots of the game, unable to make a field goal until more than halfway into the first half. Tyler Hubbard finally ended the scoring drought with a long three-pointer from the top of the key at the 8:32 mark. By then, the Orange led 17-4.
The fourth quarter hasn’t been kind at all to Syracuse this season.
It’s turned back-and-forth games into blowouts, with three quarters of competitive play somehow leading to crooked scores.
Most times, it's taken a few minutes for the fourth quarter damage to kick in. Against Pittsburgh, it only took eight seconds. Tyler Boyd took a quick screen 49 yards, untouched, into the end zone on the first play of the quarter. It gave the Panthers a commanding 27-7 lead, one last backbreaker in a season that’s been full of them for Syracuse.
Chris McCullough’s career-high 20 points gave Syracuse its second half lead. But it turned out to be a well-timed defensive play that sealed it.
The 6-foot-10 freshman saved the game for Syracuse and avoided a near-colossal collapse to Iowa in Madison Square Garden when he intercepted a pass near the basket at the end of the game. The Hawkeyes slashed their deficit from 15 points to one and had the ball in the final seconds. McCullough slid over from the free throw line, intercepted an entry pass and was fouled with about nine seconds left.
Syracuse’s roller coaster offense finally hit a new low.
The inconsistent and, sometimes, inefficient scoring attack has already led to two close calls this season – in a preseason win over Carleton and last weekend against Hampton. The third time, however, wasn’t the charm for Syracuse, who wasn’t as lucky in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.