By Kevin Dorr
Pittsburgh, PA – The Syracuse Orange (7-10-1) are traveling to western Pennsylvania to face off against the Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5-2) this weekend. The former Big East foes will be renewing their rivalry on the ice, as this will be the first time the teams play against each other in the ESCHL. Pitt, a newcomer to the league, currently sits at the top of the standings.
The Orange are coming off an impressive sweep of URI, beating the Rams 6-5 in overtime on Friday night and 2-1 Saturday afternoon. Many players stepped up and produced, which is what the Orange will need against 13th-ranked Pitt. The Orange also comes into the weekend winning 4 of their last 5 games.
Anthony Larkin and Jack Alecia both netted their first goals of the season in Friday’s victory. Despite having just one goal all year, there is no denying Larkin’s impact on the ice. He plays good, defensive hockey and leads the team with 12 assists. After recently returning to the lineup from injury, Alecia has made his presence felt. With a 4-point outing on Friday night and the game-winner on Saturday, Alecia’s impact is noticeable.
This weekend, Alecia and his linemates (Hutchinson and Alvers) will be relied on for offensive production. Alecia credits the selflessness of the line to their success.
“We have three skilled players that want to win and we work really well as a unit,” said the rookie. “There isn’t one goal scorer or one playmaker, all three of us like to shoot as much as pass and that opens up opportunities all over the ice.”
A sign of a complete hockey team is when they can win a game in different ways. The Orange showed this over the weekend by winning both a high and low-scoring match against the Rams.
Defensively, the Orange have looked much better since the start of the season. They’ve limited shots by pushing opponents to the outside and making it difficult for teams to get high-quality opportunities from the slot. Offensively, Syracuse has a plethora of goal scorers and playmakers.
Heading into the break, it is important for the Orange to build momentum. Defenseman Connor Chesner understands the importance of ending the semester strong.
“We have to finish the semester on a high note and continue our momentum,” said Friday’s overtime hero. “We are starting to hit our stride and a lot of guys are stepping up. We really like the direction our team is going.”
To continue success, finishing close games is key. Syracuse has found themselves on the wrong side of tight games over the past 2 seasons but has recently flipped the script. Goaltender Nik Manousos has been clutch in late-game situations. He can be relied on to make important stops late in games.
Chesner and Alecia both noted that high energy and a whole team effort are required for the Orange when they take on Pitt. With a chance to make a statement, expect the Orange to battle all 60 minutes for both games.
You can catch the action at the Alpha Ice Complex in Pittsburgh, PA, and can be streamed on the Pittsburg Men’s Hockey Official YouTube channel. Puck drop is scheduled for 9:20 PM on Friday night and 2:20 PM on Saturday afternoon.
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