Early Season Struggles May be a Blessing in Disguise for SU Women’s Ice Hockey
By John Dales
Citrus TV Women’s Ice Hockey Beat Reporter
Syracuse Women’s Ice Hockey currently holds a record of 9-16-1 this year. Many might think a win-loss record like that would signify a completely lost season, but that is not the case.
Looking closer at who SU has played can reveal a lot more than what comes to the casual observer’s eye. The Orange lost all nine of their games they played in the opening month of the season. Of those nine losses, seven of them came against opponents ranked inside the top seven in the country. However, early season losses against quality opponents can go a long way in helping a team down the line.
The goal for any team is to be better at the end of the year than at the start. We’ve seen that even this season with Syracuse Men’s Basketball. The Orange got run out of their own gym when they played Virginia in the ACC conference opener. A couple months later after finding their way as a team, Jim Boeheim’s bunch went to Charlottesville and took down the Hoos on the road. Now obviously, the comparisons aren’t exactly direct between basketball and hockey, but the thought process remains the same: test yourself early in the season against the best competition you can find. Later on, there will be plenty of rewards to reap.
There’s no use in beating up on teams from the bottom of the barrel just to pile up wins. In the long run, it will help SU having played against Clarkson, Boston College, Northeastern, etc. because what was learned in those early-season games can be used in every single practice and remaining game throughout the year. Every game is an opportunity to get better, but when facing off against one of the top teams in the country, there is a great chance to emulate what makes these opponents successful. In short, playing against the best breeds the best.
Although it may not jump off the page, Syracuse has gotten better, most obviously so in the past few games. In its last four contests, SU is 3-1. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. Five games ago Syracuse got completely shellacked 5-1 by Robert Morris. It was a disheartening loss in which nothing seemed to go right for SU. Just one day later, the Orange responded in one of their best defensive performances of the season to win 1-0.
A lot of teams would not have the intestinal fortitude to come out the day after getting blown out, and come together as a team to pull off a really impressive wire-to-wire victory. That’s just a testament to this year’s Syracuse squad, and goes to show how they are much more than a 16 loss team. That game may very well have been the turning point for SU this season. The weekend after, Syracuse lost a game 1-0 to Penn State that they probably should have won, but just ran into a really good goaltender. In fact, PSU’s goalie Chantal Burke is fourth in the nation in shutouts. However, the very next day the Orange bounced back once again to take down the Nittany Lions 3-1. They were able to break through and put three goals in the back of the net against a goalie that blanked them the night before.
Today’s SU team is not the same one that lost 5-1 to 3rd ranked Clarkson in the season’s opening weekend. It’s not the same team that lost 7-4 to RIT back in November. Syracuse is a team that has gotten better every step throughout the season up until now. This team is not perfect. However, don’t be surprised if an SU team with a losing record on the year makes some noise in the College Hockey America Tournament come March.
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