A look back at the SU Women’s Ice Hockey Season
By John Dales
CitrusTV Women’s Ice Hockey Beat Reporter
As the clock hit triple zeroes in Buffalo on Friday, Syracuse’s (14-20-2, 11-7-2 College Hockey America) season came to a close. The Orange fought hard, and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against Robert Morris, and looked to be headed to the conference championship. However, the Colonials mounted a huge comeback effort to win 5-2. The loss put an end to an up and down season for the Orange, so we’ll take one final look back at the journey this team embarked on from back in November all the way into early March.
SU’s season did not start the way the team would have hoped. The Orange’s non conference schedule was an absolute gauntlet, there’s no other way of putting it. Syracuse’s first five games were against three opponents all ranked within the top seven in the country (No. 3 Clarkson, No. 7 Boston College, and No. 3 Northeastern). SU lost all five of those contests, but stayed within a goal in three of them. The early season woes did not stop there though. The ‘Cuse dropped five of its next six against Colgate, No. 6 Princeton, Union, and RIT. The loss to RIT was probably the most disheartening because it was a conference game, and the Orange ended up allowing seven goals. That was a team SU felt they definitely should have beaten, so starting off conference play with a big loss was more than disappointing. In short, the early months were not kind to SU; the Orange posted a record of 1-10 through eleven games.
However, there was still plenty of time left in the season to turn things around. The changes were slow-moving at first, but the Orange did start to turn the tide. SU went 2-2-1 in its next five games, and while this record may not jump off the page, it’s a far cry from 1-10. On top of that, this five game stretch included another top ten matchup with No. 3 Cornell (4-1 loss).
The biggest turning point this season for Syracuse came on December 6th and 7th in Lindenwood. The Lions were without a starting goalie, so they had to put a forward in net. That led to a barrage of SU goals, and two blowout wins. At the end of the weekend, Syracuse outscored Lindenwood by a total of 20-1. I think those two blowouts gave this team a ton of confidence as the bulk of conference play was just starting up. Case in point, the very next game SU took down Mercyhurst— who was the best team in the CHA all year — by a final score of 8-3. The Lakers rebounded for a last-second 4-3 win the next day, but the Orange clearly showed they could play with anyone in the conference.
A couple of games later is where Syracuse began its season-defining run. The Orange went 5-0-1 in a six game set that featured matchups against Penn State, RPI, RIT, and Lindenwood. Maybe most important in this stretch was when SU avenged the earlier 7-4 loss to RIT with a 3-1 home victory. The Orange did falter a bit heading into the conference tournament, going 1-3 against Mercyhurst and Robert Morris down the stretch, but finished the regular season at 3rd place in the CHA.
The calendar turned to March, and a whole different season began: the postseason. Throw all the regular season records out the window; if you win three games, you’re in the NCAA Tournament. SU started the CHA Tournament with a resounding 4-0 win over Lindenwood. Victoria Klimek led the way in this one by picking up her first collegiate hat trick.
The next day, SU played 2nd seeded Robert Morris, who they had just split a two game series with under a week earlier. There was a palpable buzz in the LECOM Harborcenter for this one as both teams and their supporters knew the huge stakes of this game. The game started just how Syracuse would have liked. Lindsay Eastwood gave the Orange an early 1-0 lead, and later on Mae Batherson stretched it to 2-0. That score held until midway through the 2nd period when RMU got on the board with a power play, and started a furious comeback that catapulted them back into the lead before the intermission. SU appeared to score a goal that would have tied it at 3-3, but it was called back for goalie interference. RMU would end up adding on two more to win 5-2, and send Syracuse home.
Obviously it hurts to lose the last game of the season, but SU accomplished a lot of great things this year. They improved from the start of the year to the end as much as or more so than any other team in the conference, or the country for that matter. The Orange do lose eight seniors for next year’s team, but plenty of players will be coming back next season, and any team coached by Paul Flanagan is sure to compete at the highest level.
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