By Zoe Jurmann
Photo by Arnav Pokhrel (instagram: @prod_adp)
Lewiston, NY.-- This past weekend, the Syracuse Orange (9-17-1) failed to conquer their ESCHL rivals, the Niagara Purple Eagles (18-9-0), in a crucial series for the Orange. Coming into the series holding onto a playoff position, the Orange needed these two games to prove their talent to the rest of the ESCHL. The two losses now hold the Orange just one point behind The Delaware Blue Hens and one point out of a playoff spot.
Forward Evan Vassilovski believes that Saturday night was the biggest showcase of the Orange’s talent. Controlling Niagara's speed and skill helped them hold the Purple Eagles to just four goals.
“In the first game we were able to contain Niagara’s speed and control the game in moments,” said the Sophomore. “But ultimately consistency was the issue which was why we lost the first game and our inability to contain their speed at all was why we were playing from behind for the entirety of the second game.”
Goal scoring has been a struggle for the Orange all season, and the series against the Purple Eagles proved to be another uphill scoring battle. The aforementioned speed that Niagara plays with prevented the Orange from being able to get in on net and create more chances.
Anthony Larkin believes that to improve their goal scoring, the team needs to focus on getting into the “dirty areas.” You can’t win games without scoring, and the team needs to work on rushing the net to capitalize on whatever chances they get.
“We need to get into the dirty areas. Hockey isn’t a clean game, it’s not tic tac toe every time. It’s gonna take banging one in on the crease more often than not to get a goal on the board,” explained Larkin. “ Look at our goals this weekend. We only scored 3 but all of them came from within 5 feet of the front of the net. We have to get in the dirty areas more.”
Despite having a tough season, Vassilovski says that the team's mentality remains positive. Rather than focusing on the past, they look ahead to their next matchup or game after each game and think about what they can do even better than last time.
“These games coming up obviously have huge playoff implications, and everyone knows how much it would mean for us, especially for the seniors to be able to extend our season into the playoffs,” says Vassilovski. “The mentality in the locker room is great, everyone’s goals are aligned, we know everything needs to be 110% and we know how we need to play in these games.”
Having a young team is something that the Orange pride themselves on, yet the seniors have been the heart and soul of this Syracuse team throughout the season. Captain Mackenzie Murphy is just one example of a crucial player spending his last few weeks in an orange uniform. Larkin adds that the team is taking these last few games to play for each other, especially the seniors.
The forward says the message in the locker room is “play for each other. Play for the guy next to you. Seniors only have a couple of games left, and if we want to make the playoffs we know each game is essentially a ‘must-win’. It is a sense of added pressure but that’s just the spot we are in and a part of the adversity we have to overcome as a team.”
Next weekend, the Orange are set to take on ESCHL rivals, the Delaware Blue Hens as we say goodbye to our seniors in their final home games at the Tennity Ice Pavilion. Senior Night will take place on Saturday, February 11th at 8:00PM, and the final home game of the season will take place the following day on Sunday, February 12th at 2:00 PM. You can catch both games and the senior ceremony on the Syracuse Hockey Network.