What Needs to Change for Syracuse Ice Hockey
By Luke Burgess
CitrusTV Ice Hockey Beat Reporter
Hockey season is long and grueling, “It’s the longest season in the NCAA” Head Coach Britni Smith said.
The end of the season is never easy, so when it comes to hockey, a sport that crosses over between the fall and spring semesters, there is no doubt that the players are feeling the wear and tear.
Throughout the locker room, the notion is that you just have to keep going, but that can be difficult when you don’t get results. After playing some of its best hockey all season, Syracuse was still outscored 11-1 against Penn State last weekend.
The question is, what needs to change to start putting some wins in the left-hand column?
It starts with goals. Although Syracuse is keeping shots pretty even, they average a goal per game less than their opponents.
The teams that they play do generate a lot of chances, the difference is how many of those chances they convert. The Orange need to do more with their opportunities in the zone, link up passing and quicker zone entries are the key to generating those types of opportunities.
A huge key to making that happen is Junior Rayla Clemons. There are not too many shifts where Clemons is not the fastest player on the ice, she also has the ability to move the puck quickly and create confusion for the defense with her skating. Goals on the Powerplay from her could really begin to kickstart this offense come playoff time.
One aspect of the game that really showed against Penn State on Saturday was physicality. It is an aspect that changes from game to game, as some officials will call almost any hit, while others will let the game play out. Either way, it is something that the Cuse struggled to establish for a large part of the second half, especially against deeper teams such as Cornell and Colgate.
Head Coach Britini Smith has done an excellent job of establishing a culture in the locker room.
Each week the team has a Tuesday meeting in which they discuss goals and open up about struggles that they may be facing in their personal, academic, and athletic lives. The team also has Thursday meetings where they hand out a hard hat award designed to highlight a player who demonstrates hard work on and off the ice.
Maybe even more important than the meetings is the buy-in from each and every one of the players, they all speak very highly of the atmosphere that Coach Smith has created, and in her first year, no matter how far the Orange go, there is a belief that the future of the organization is very bright.
Looking at this weekend, Syracuse was able to hang with Mercyhurst really well on Sunday. A slew of penalties interrupted the game often and created a slow pace for much of the contest, if Syracuse can harness those chances this weekend and use the speedy Clemons to get to loose pucks, they will have a chance to grab home ice in the playoffs, jumping the Lakers in the standings.
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