Jay Pfeifer’s body language said it all.
He had just allowed Cornell’s Joe Boulukos to score his seventh goal of the game, and Cornell’s 16th overall. Pfeifer’s shoulders slumped and his eyes fixed toward the Carrier Dome turf, knowing it was not one of his finest days.
Little went right for Pfeifer and the Syracuse defense as the No. 6 Orange (5-4) lost to the Big Red (6-2) Tuesday night, 16-14.
“I didn’t see the ball that well today,” Pfeifer said. “It happens a couple games every year.”
It was the first time it had happened this year. Coming into Tuesday, Pfeifer had allowed just 8.85 goals per game while recording 100 saves. The Syracuse defense was coming off a stifling effort against Loyola in a 12-6 win.
None of that carried into Tuesday as Pfeifer managed just nine saves on 34 shots.
Pfeifer and the rest of the defense simply couldn’t contain Boulukos, who was next to unstoppable. Boulukos used a move where he’d lower his shoulder into a Syracuse defender, then step back, creating enough room for his own shot.
“He gets a lot of separation from his defender and the ball,” SU defender Steve Ditzell said.
When he wasn’t creating his own shots, he was being set up for easy shots by his teammates.
“We just kept feeding him the ball,” CU attackman Derek Haswell said. “He made us all look good tonight.”
On his seventh and final goal, Boulukos was fed the ball in a prime shooting position, 10 feet straightaway from the goal by Brian Clayton.
“He’s accurate with the shot and he brought it today,” Ditzell said. “It seemed like whoever we had on him, he was still making good plays.”
Still, the loss couldn’t be pinned exclusively on the defense, SU coach John Desko said.
Although the Orange scored a season high 14 goals, the offense seemed to rush at times.
“We forced some things,” Desko said. “There were times we needed to settle into our offense and let everyone touch the ball, rest our defense at the other end. We needed to be more patient with it.”
Still, the Orange couldn’t get stops when it needed it most.
Down by as many as three goals in the second half, Syracuse rallied and managed to tie the score behind a Mike Leveille goal (his finished with four) with 4 minutes and 10 seconds remaining.
But after Cornell regained possession, Kevin Nee ripped a shot past Pfeifer and Boulukos put the game out of reach with his final goal.
“It’s just one of those games when absolutely nothing goes right for you,” Pfeifer said. “They were picking us apart on defense.”
All of that translated into Pfeifer’s worst game of the year. The last time Pfeifer allowed 16 goals was against Johns Hopkins last year, in a 17-5 rout of the Orange.
“I’d rather not talk about that game, though,” Pfeifer said.
Likely, he won’t want to talk about this one, either.