Veterans, Flanagan Elated at Prospect of Hosting CHA Tournament
By Chilekasi Adele
CitrusTV’s Women’s Ice Hockey Beat Reporter
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse Ice Hockey is looking to hoist the College Hockey America Championship Trophy at the end of the CHA Tournament. What makes that possible moment sweeter is the prospect of doing it on home ice.
For the Orange, just one win against Mercyhurst this weekend could put them on that track and solidify the home-ice advantage. Paul Flanagan’s team is currently in sole possession of first place in the CHA with two games left in the regular season — the aforementioned contests against Mercyhurst.
“It would be nice to get some notoriety for our team, for our players,” Flanagan said. “This is our home. Obviously, some teams play in great big buildings, but I think it would be neat to be hosting here and just pack this place to the rafters.
Flanagan said it also means a lot for the prospective players, and those who may already have committed to the team.
“I think for any of our recruits who have committed for fall of 22, fall of 23, watch on TV or watch on the internet,” Flanagan said. “And really get a chance to focus — and then that’s their mentality when they come here, and why not start a tradition, maybe host every year? And so, for a variety of reasons, I think it would be great — and we wouldn’t have to get on a bus and travel somewhere three, four, five hours away.”
As it stands currently, Penn State and Mercyhurst (8-4-0 CHA) stand behind Syracuse with 16 points. Mercyhurst plays SU this weekend, followed by two games against Lindenwood. Penn State (7-3-2 CHA) is currently second in the conference, but has only two conference games left in the season — the Nittany Lions play LIU this weekend, followed by RIT the following weekend.
So going into the tournament, no matter where it’s held, Syracuse will be coming off a week’s rest and a respite of about 12-13 days. The break comes as Syracuse has remained dominant in 2022 — a 6-0-2 start to the new year. The team’s captain doesn’t see a problem with that.
“I think a pause is actually going to be pretty good,” graduate student defenseman Jessica DiGirolamo said. “Being able to get those important reps on the ice is super important, and I just feel like we’re gonna regroup as a team and re-energize.”
The Head Coach sees good and the bad in having the break.
“I think for the team, it’s probably not the best thing. You want to kind of keep playing,” Flanagan said. “Maybe for some individuals that might be beat up a little bit, a little tired, and have the nagging injuries — or someone like Rayla [Clemons] — it may give her time to come back. So from an individual perspective it may be good, but I think you like the team playing… We’ll have to strategize and not let it be an issue.”
“Rust is never a bad thing, but too much rust can also be a little bit of a bad thing,” grad student forward Victoria Klimek said. “So, I just think that if we’re doing things right and really making the most of practice time throughout those 12, 13 days, we should be fine.”
Klimek said she didn’t expect hosting the CHA Tournament would be an “option” for her coming back for her fifth year. It would be the first time a Syracuse team finished first in the regular season since the program’s inception.
“I couldn’t be excited about anything right now, then the possible chance for us to host CHAs,” she said. “Just playing on home ice. Having that home ice advantage. Having our families here, all of our friends from school — everybody’s been talking about it since the second we found it was a possibility and especially this week.”