USCHO prediction: Second
Coaches’ prediction: First
Last season: Second (11-15-10, 8-6-6 CHA)
A number of teams came close to getting into the NCAA tournament last year. Bemidji State was a game away. Cornell was 17 minutes away.
Syracuse was a bounce away in sudden death, and ultimately, it was RIT that made a play and made history in the second overtime.
“Hopefully this veteran group brings with them a real strong motivation to work extremely hard, both on and off the ice, and really have that motivation from last year’s championship game to get back to that game and be CHA champions,” coach Paul Flanagan said.
Of the players who suited up for the championship, 15 return.
“I like the fact that we have most of that team back,” Flanagan said. “It’s invaluable experience having played in that game. I’d like to think that there’s a quiet motivation amongst our group to work hard this year and learn from the lessons from last year — the things that went well for us to get us to that game.”
One thing that went well is the Orange finally defeated Mercyhurst, getting rid of a giant monkey that had blocked the path to past championships. Now, the league coaches have anointed Syracuse as the team to beat in the league.
“I think getting picked as the preseason favorite is a lot to live up to,” senior forward Melissa Piacentini said. “I think we’ve got to take that with pride and go with it.”
Syracuse returns its top five scorers, including sophomore Stephanie Grossi with 30 points, and Piacentini who had 29 points.
Starting goaltender Jenn Gilligan returns for her senior season. Though her numbers weren’t stellar (.901 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average), Flanagan says that her stats were largely a result of having to play injured early in the season.
Her play down the stretch helped Syracuse gain the CHA final. In February and March, Gilligan allowed more than one goal in regulation only once.
Syracuse has the league’s most complete team at present, and the Orange look ready to pounce on some hardware if the others are unable to put all the pieces together.