By Brooke Killgore
Photo Credit: Maria Kaffes (Instagram: @Mariakaffesimages)
SYRACUSE, NY—Syracuse men’s hockey takes a step away from the EScHL this weekend as it welcomes the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers to the Tennity Ice Pavilion tonight and tomorrow. A matchup that could possibly benefit the Orange’s standing—only four points in a non-conference game—but it is a chance to freshen up their skills before their last regular season matchup against Delaware next weekend. Yet, for some, there are more than points on the table.
The last time SU faced RIT was back in February of 2018 when the Orange defeated the Tigers 2-1 on the road in Rochester. To travel farther back in time, the Tigers last appeared at Tennity in November 2017, ending with a 5-0 Syracuse victory. Considering their previous encounters, the Orange have had a positive track record when it comes to Tiger-taming.
“Coming off a weekend off and a good week of practice, I think the energy is high, and the mentality is getting back on the winning track,” head coach Chris Timmons said.
“It’s a [series] where we need to find our game and style of play again after a couple of tough weekends against high-ranked opponents. We made some adjustments and talked more about getting back to our structure.”
Though none of the ‘CUSE players currently on the roster have faced RIT in their time wearing the Orange, this series is a chance to pull themselves out of a six-game losing streak.
In terms of line changes, sophomore forward Jack Alecia returns to the first line after recovering from an injury in an earlier series. He replaces freshman Kade Cook, who had been an efficient force alongside the Hutchinson-Alvers line.
This could also be a monumental game as senior left wing Sam Hutchinson may continue his high-scoring streak tonight and tomorrow. The Dorchester native has 30 points overall: 15 goals and 15 assists, averaging 1.25 points per game.
In the crease, junior goaltender Chris Spano has been named the starter for tonight’s game. The Yonkers native currently holds a .861 save percentage after six games played. Spano has 174 SVS at the moment and records a 4.95 GAA.
Yet, a non-conference game may not seem like a big deal to many looking in from the outside. But this match holds a history for one player: a chance to beat an old teammate.
Senior forward and alternate captain Tim Cook grew up in Fort Covington, New York, and spent several years learning the craft of his sport—where he inspired players like his younger brother, freshman Kade. The right-wing joined the St. Lawrence Steel U14 AA team for the 2015-2016 season, where as a center, he finished with two goals and six assists in 29 games.
This background information may seem like a simple profile, but it means so much more than that. Cook played alongside RIT defenseman Carter Benedict.
“I’m really excited because I didn’t think he was playing this year,” Cook said. “We grew up [and played] together…it’ll be cool to see how we look against each other instead of on the same team. We [used] to go to his house, next to the school, and play ping pong until practices.”
The two spent one season together at St. Lawrence Steel before entering their first year of high school at Salmon River Central High. In their 2017-2018 season, Cook recorded three goals with 16 assists, and Benedict found himself with three of his own. Cook then headed to Syracuse University, and Benedict ended up at RIT after spending some time at Stanstead College in Quebec.
Unfortunately, there will be no room for ping-pong this time around. The Orange must find their rhythm before a final and monumental series against the Delaware Blue Hens next weekend—a matchup that can define Syracuse’s playoff future.
You can catch the Orange with puck drops at 7 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. on Saturday. All home games are played at the Tennity Ice Pavilion on Syracuse University’s campus and are free to attend for students and the general public. Home games are also broadcast live for free on the SU Hockey Network.