Syracuse readies to face Penn State in CHA tournament semifinals after week off

first_img Published on March 5, 2015 at 12:08 am Heading into the final weekend of regular-season play, Syracuse and Penn State were tied for second in the College Hockey America standings with 20 points each. Penn State held the tiebreaker and a first-round bye in the CHA tournament was at stake.The Nittany Lions played first, falling 4-1 to Robert Morris, and SU controlled its own destiny. With a 4-1 victory of its own over RIT later that Friday night, the Orange needed only a tie on Saturday to finish second.Again playing early in the day, Penn State lost by the same score again. Syracuse took the bye and with it, got one step closer to an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.“This is a good break, whether it’s people nursing minor injuries, some aches and pains, trying to shake a cold,” head coach Paul Flanagan said, “because right now you alleviate the stress of having a best of three (last) weekend.”Syracuse (10-14-10, 8-6-6 CHA) spent the past week recovering and working on skills while trying to keep its competitive spirit up. After finding out it would face Penn State (17-15-4, 9-9-2) in the CHA semifinals, the team reverted to its normal practice schedule, working on specifics of the PSU power play, fore-check and end-zone coverage.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter going 1-1-2 against the Nittany Lions this season, Syracuse will square off with PSU on Friday at 7 p.m. at Mercyhurst Ice Center in Erie, Pennsylvania. The winner will face the winner of Merchurst (23-8-3, 14-5-1) and RIT (13-18-5, 5-12-3) on Saturday for the CHA title and a trip to the NCAA tournament.“It could potentially be my last game, we don’t want it to be,” senior Allie LaCombe said about the win-or-go-home tournament. “Basically all your hard work and preparation since I was 14 feels like it comes down to your last collegiate game.”The final pieces of that preparation started during the team’s week off.Players were able to focus on individual skills as well as the team’s own systems. Defender Akane Hosoyamada said the most important thing for the team during that week was for each player to focus on herself and what she can do better.Additionally, the team ran combative drills against each other to ensure it didn’t lose its competitive edge in the break before the next game.“If we can keep the compete level going while actually being able to not worry about an opponent or games this weekend, we can concentrate on just getting better,” Flanagan said.Given that it’s a do-or-die game, the players will play with increased intensity and urgency. Flanagan expects players to block additional shots on defense and stay in their systems on offense. During practice, he stressed remembering where on the ice most of the Orange’s goals come from.If SU holds off PSU, the team may very well have to then beat Mercyhurst, a feat the Orange accomplished earlier this season for the first time in program history.Getting that first win under their belts would serve as confidence for Flanagan and his players if they do face the 10-time CHA champions. Mercyhurst has made the CHA tournament final in each year of the conference’s existence.Flanagan said the team will have extra motivation knowing it tied Mercyhurst at its rink and had a strong chance to beat the Lakers the next day as well.“Now our goal would be to not only beat them at home but beat them in their own rink,” defender Danielle Leslie said. “I think that would be pretty spectacular for us.”Flanagan agreed, but didn’t want to get ahead of himself. First, the team has to beat Penn State before it can think about Mercyhurst.Though the coach is confident going into the weekend, he wouldn’t talk specifics about when his team’s season would end.Said Flanagan: “I don’t make predictions.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img


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