By Zoe Jurmann
Photo by David Herman (Instagram: @Dhermsphoto)
SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- The Orange (8-13-1) split the weekend with ESCHL foe Drexel University (11-7-4) in their final two meetings of the season. On Friday night the Orange battled the Dragons to a 1-1 tie after 2 periods. Drexel notched the go ahead with just under 8 minutes to play in the third. They would add 2 more insurance tallies in the final 3 minutes, the final goal into an empty net, going on to win Friday's matchup 4-1.
The Orange came back on Saturday night with a vengeance. They didn’t let Drexel run away with the game late like they had the night before. They were able to control play in the neutral zone and didn’t allow the Dragons to get up ice on their rushes.
Head coach Chris Timmons explained “Think we were able to lock down the neutral zone and limit their time and space on rushes. In the past our gap control was poor and they have the speed and skill to make you pay for it. You lock down the neutral zone and make them battle in the offensive zone which limits their grade A opportunities.”
Defenseman Connor Chesner scored two of the three goals in Saturday’s overtime win. Chesner has been a huge presence both offensively and defensively for the Orange this season, having huge plays in multiple big games. Chesner credits his ability to play both ends of the ice to the support of his teammates.
“I do my best to jump up in the rush so I can contribute on both sides of the ice. I wouldn’t be able to play so offensive if my teammates didn’t have my back and supported me,” added the freshman. “I love that our team has a lot of trust in me as a player and I want to contribute in any way possible. If that means jumping up in the play I will do that. If Coach needs us to play defensive, I will do that as well.”
One thing that the Orange have struggled with all season is consistent goal scoring, many losses have been shutouts or one-goal games. Being able to score multiple goals this weekend, especially after a one-goal loss on Friday was vital to their success in taking home a win.
“Simple answer is that we scored more than one goal,” explained Timmons. “We were unable to capitalize on most of our opportunities in both games, but did more on Saturday that gave us a chance to win.”
With the ESCHL playoffs only a few months away, the Orange must go into each game with the urgency to win that was displayed on Saturday. The ultimate goal for the back of the season is not only to win but to get to the playoffs.
Chesner shouts out teammate Jack Wren who scored the game-winning goal in overtime, explaining that each and every win pushes them forward as a group toward their ultimate goal. The Orange struggled early this season with communication and chemistry, but these have only improved as the season has progressed. It is important, now more than ever, that the team trusts each other and plays as a unit in order to make the playoffs.
“Since Saturday was a league game it meant a lot more. We all knew that we had to come out with the win. Hats off to Jack Wren for finishing the game early in OT. It’s good to get into the win column early this year and the hope is we are able to carry that momentum into next weekend and we know that this last stretch of games will be hard but we know what we need to do,” added Chesner. “Once playoffs come around anything can happen. That’s our mentality. It doesn’t matter what seed we are in playoffs we just want to hit our stride at the right moment and it seems like we are clicking at the right time.”
The Orange are back on home ice on Friday, January 20th as they take on Robert Morris. Saturday’s game is special, as it is the Orange’s annual Syracuse CRUNCH x SUMH game at Upstate Medical Arena. The Crunch will take on the Utica Comets after the game. You can catch both games on the Syracuse Hockey Network.