Syracuse Women’s Ice Hockey Speeds Toward The Finish
By Luke Burgess
CitrusTV Ice Hockey Beat Reporter
The road has been anything but easy for Syracuse Ice Hockey this season, the Orange have had a year full of ups and downs, but one thing that has remained consistent is growth. It’s something that Head Coach Britni Smith emphasizes after almost every game, stating that she’s proud of how far her team has come in her first season behind the bench.
“I think we’re a pretty different team than we were last time we played them.” Smith said of this weekend’s upcoming matchup against Penn State.
The philosophy is that that continued growth will eventually lead to improved results on the ice. The Orange have only picked up two wins in its eight games since coming back from the break, but the team’s spirit is anything but damaged.
Despite this belief in the group, Freshman Heidi Knoll knows that the Orange need to start scoring some goals, “Hitting nets is what we need to work on.” Knoll said. Knoll, who just scored her first career goal in the 6-1 loss to Mercyhurst, is playing with a lot of confidence coming into the Penn State series.
“They like to play through the middle…We have to work on shutting that down.” Knoll recognizes the danger that the number 12 Nittany Lions pose, the next step in the puzzle is execution on the ice.
But the season doesn’t end with Penn State.
Syracuse play only five more games this season, all of those games will be played at home. Most would think that SU sit in an ideal position, but every team on the remaining schedule comes in with a winning record, and looking to establish position in their respective conference tournament.
The stakes are high going into this weekend. Syracuse currently sits in third in the CHA, they are just a tiebreaker shy of second.
Smith just wants her team to keep everything in perspective going into this weekend. “(The standings) are important…But our focus is the process, so as much as you can look ahead and start doing the math at this part of the season, we just take it game by game.”
Keeping the process in mind is a mindset that is preached throughout all of hockey.
There is nothing that Smith’s team would love more than to get the Power play going. The Orange sit at just under 16% this season, their opponent Penn State, over 20%. Goals win games, and a 1-9 showing over the past weekend is a feat that Syracuse cannot afford to repeat.
The Penalty Kill has been a bright spot for SU, and that on top of All Star worthy performances from Goaltender Arielle DeSmet, Syracuse finds themselves as a pretty solid defensive squad.
Looking down the road for SU, there are no more weak teams on the schedule. Penn State’s leading scorer Kiara Zanon has well over a point per game this season. Syracuse has struggled against their opponents top players this year, they’ll hope to not make it a repeat this week.
Following Penn State, the Orange will get their second crack at Mercyhurst, who they will most likely be battling 2nd place for. Sara Boucher recorded a hat trick against Syracuse last time out, they’ll hope to shut her down next go around.
The final opponent of the season is Stonehill. The Skyhawks are another team with a winning record, but being an out of conference opponent, Syracuse has bigger fish to fry before they think about their final matchup of the season.
Coach Smith emphasized that the team doesn’t watch a lot of film going into a matchup like this when they didn’t like their results. The group wanted to keep things moving forward rather than going back and dwelling on past mistakes.
The coming weeks are the most important of the year for the Orange. A few wins or close games against Penn State could put this team on a great course. There is evidence up and down the lineup that the team believes in their coaching, as echoed throughout the squad, it all comes down to execution.
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