By Luke Burgess
SYRACUSE, NY– After one month off to recover and reflect, Syracuse (7-12-1) jumps right back into conference play this weekend with a pair of games against the Drexel Dragons (10-7-3) in the heart of Philadelphia. Drexel will be the first team that Syracuse has matched up against more than twice this season. Drexel and Syracuse have already met for 2 games earlier in the season - the Dragons took both contests from 'Cuse winning game 1 in overtime and game 2 in regulation.
The Orange have held practice over the last few days getting back into the swing of things, and not only were the practices lively, but the team looked prepared and determined to go on a run in the second half of the season.
Drexel, who started off the season on a hot streak, has cooled down significantly and now only sit 1 point ahead of SU in the ESCHL Conference Standings. Since Drexel and Syracuse have 4 games against one another this season only 1 game from each weekend set will count toward conference play. This means that only Saturday's game will have 2 ESCHL points on the line. If the Orange are able to beat Drexel on Saturday evening they would pass the Dragons and likely land themselves back into one of the six playoff spots.
Sam Hutchinson led the team with 14 points in the fall semester, but Syracuse struggled to sustain depth scoring, something that could have changed the outcome of a lot of the closer games in the favor of the Orange. If the Orange begin to turn things around in the second half of the season, it will surely be because of an increased role of production from the third and fourth lines.
For Drexel, their leading scorer this season is forward Matt Harris. Harris is scoring at almost a point and a half per game clip, and the Dragons have 4 other players who also sit above that point per-game threshold.
The issue for Drexel is very similar to the problem for Syracuse, both teams heavily rely on their top guys to get the job done. When looking at a top 5 team in the ACHA, the scoring is much more spread around. On top of consistent play from goaltending, that stat could lead Syracuse to a memorable second half.
Special teams will also play a big role in the upcoming part of the season. Drexel has a few players who can produce well on the power play, and Syracuse’s PK has been strong for a large portion of the season. The Orange will need to play tight on defense and get to loose pucks, just as they did in their first matchup against Drexel if they want to come away with the victory.