By Zoe Jurmann
Syracuse Head Coach Chris Timmons addresses team in the locker room.
SYRACUSE, N.Y -- This weekend, the Syracuse Orange (3-12-0) are set to face off against The Niagara University Purple Eagles (12-3-1) in their first games back since Winter Break.
The Orange plan on putting the struggles of the first half behind them as they head into the rest of the season with a positive mindset.
Despite the university pushing classes back a week, Syracuse returned to campus and practiced earlier this past week in preparation for this weekend’s home-and-home series.
Defenseman Mackenzie Murphy loved being able to be back with the team and being able to skate together after so much time apart.
“It’s been great getting back on the ice with the guys. This is one of my favorite times of the year,” said the junior. “It’s always nice coming back early and getting on the ice before classes start. It’s a lot easier to focus during practice when you don’t have to worry about classes during the day.”
First-year head coach Chris Timmons agrees with Murphy, adding that this break definitely helped the team recover from hardships and come back refreshed.
Timmons added, “I think it gave our guys some time to get away from the game and de-stress since it was a long first half for the team. Now they can come back fresh and looking to compete in the second half here with a clean slate. “
The first half of the season was quite difficult for the Orange. With so many rookies and lines constantly changing due to injuries and illness, the team had lots of trouble producing chemistry on the ice.
Senior Colin Morrow believes that the team is starting to get a lot more comfortable with each other, which has become obvious during practice this week.
“I think we’ve gelled a lot. Guys are getting more comfortable and are finding their roles on the team. I think that will help us a lot in the new year,” explained Morrow.
Murphy believes that now that the Orange’s young team has a semester together under their belt, there are no more excuses.
“I think our mentality going into the second semester is to build off the first semester. We have a lot of young guys who now have a semester under the belt. There’s no more excuses, it's time for this team to start putting together a full 60 minutes,” Murphy explained.
The defenseman continued, “I think it’s pretty simple what we need to do to improve. We need to build off our last game against NYU. I think that was the closest we’ve come to playing a full 60 minutes and it showed. We can’t afford to let up goals in bunches and that starts in the d-zone.”
Freshman Tony Larkin adds that the team’s mindset heading into the second half is not to focus on the past and to just keep improving and focus on the future.
“We’re definitely looking to improve from the first half. It’s a new semester and it’s almost like a new season. There’s a sense of a fresh start,” explained the forward. “A lot of guys are moving the puck better with each other. Individually, guys have more confidence and that leads to more trust in each other’s play.”
Coach Timmons expects a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset from the Orange heading into this second half. The ACHA is a tough league, but he believes in this team and expects only the best from them.
“There is nothing to lose for us at this point and I don’t believe we are technically out of the playoffs as of now, so I expect our guys to come into this second half and prove we are going to have a bright future ahead of us,” said Timmons. “Growth is always the expectation, but now we need to show how that growth will make us successful.”
You can watch the Orange take on the Niagara University Purple Eagles this Saturday at 2 pm at Tennity Ice Pavilion, and again on Sunday at 8 pm at Niagara.