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Rhode Island Strands Syracuse in Weekend Sweep

By Jacob Erlbaum

Photo by Maria Kaffes (Instagram: @mariakaffesimages)

SYRACUSE, NY – After over a month off from game action, the Syracuse Men’s Club Hockey team returned to action Friday night. Heading into game one of a weekend series with Rhode Island, the Orange were flying high into the new year, having picked up four straight wins. 

Friday night, Rhode Island jumped out to a two-goal lead midway through the second, thanks to goals from Dennis Engelson and Shane Mulhern. From that point on, the Orange flipped the script and battled back, with sophomore forward Jack Alecia leading the charge. 

Alecia recorded the night's first goal for Syracuse and then tallied the primary assist on Sam Hutchinson’s game-tying goal late in the second period on the powerplay. 

“I felt like I had a good week in practice and carried that into the game on Friday. Our power play got a lot of chances, and we were able to capitalize twice if we are able to draw penalties consistently, special teams can present a great threat,” Alecia said. 

Syracuse was right back in the game thanks to a strong surge from Alecia and company to end the second, and then early in the third, Anthony Larkin scored his first of the season to give the Orange their first lead of the night. 

The lead would be short-lived as just over five minutes later, Jonathan Shaw evened things at three for Rhode Island. The game would stay knotted at three through the third and overtime, with the game ultimately being decided by a shootout. 

SU netminder AJ Finta was stellar in the shootout, but the Orange were shut down on all six of their attempts by Rhode Island goalie Curtis Briggs, who was stellar all night long. 

Finta stopped five of six Rhode Island shooters, giving his team all the chances they could ask for, but Syracuse couldn’t find the back of the net in the skills competition. Rhode Island took game one 4-3, ending SU’s four-game win streak. 

For Finta, he loved what he saw from the team in front of him and how well they responded to adversity after trailing by two.

“Our team showed once again how well we battle adversity and 10 minutes later when that end of the period buzzer sounded the score was 2-2.,” Finta said.

On Saturday, SU’s failure to score in the shootout spilled over into game two of the weekend set as the Orange were blanked 3-0. Shane Mulhern notched two assists for Rhode Island and ended the weekend with three points over the two-game series. 

While there’s frustration over the loss, Syracuse will get another full week of practice before they head to Lynchburg, VA, for a big showdown with Liberty. 

“After having over a month off, I think we looked alright. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted over the weekend, but we are back on the ice practicing cleaning up some things,” Alecia said. 

Following the losses, it’s important to see how a team responds to tough stretches and for Syracuse, it will be no different. The main thing will be how this team bands together and plays to their true identity over the coming weeks.

“I think the biggest takeaway we had from this weekend though is the fact that we need to get back to our underdog identity. I think we went into the weekend a little too overconfident given the success we had in the first semester and you could definitely see us lose that buzz that I mentioned prior, in the game,” Finta said. 

The Orange will certainly be underdogs this weekend as they face off with Liberty. The Flames currently sits at number seven in the ACHA MD1 rankings and will present the Orange with their toughest task yet. It’s gonna take the little things offensively if Syracuse wants to knock off one of the best teams they’ll face all year. 

“Against a good opponent like Liberty, it’s important that offensively, we try to get shots through screens and create traffic in front,” Alecia said. 

The Orange should have all the motivation they need after two straight losses to start the second half of their season. If there’s one thing we know about this team, it’s that they won’t back down from a challenge, and now that they've had two straight losses, perhaps their greatest challenge looms with Liberty, and the pressure will certainly be on. 

“It’s arguably the best environment to play in in all of the ACHA and I’m excited to see how our team responds to the pressure,” Finta said.

Contact me:

X: @ErlbaumJacob

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