The Syracuse Orange Women's Ice Hockey team has been voted as the favorites to win the College Hockey America regular season championship. After finishing runner-up in the CHA regular season and in the CHA tournament last season, the Orange received three first place votes, one more than last years regular season champions Mercyhurst.
Head coach Paul Flangan says the team hasn't talked about the ranking, but it does serve as motivation.
"I think it's flattering that the other coaches are picking us to win," said Flanagan. "But beyond the preseason poll, now it's all about 'are you going to live up to the hype?'."
Even though Syracuse finished their 2014-2015 season with a record of 11-15-10, there is a lot of promise in this year's team. The biggest reason behind their ranking is their returning roster.
The top five points leaders from last season are back on the ice for Syracuse. One of those skaters is sophomore forward Stephanie Grossi, who won the CHA Rookie of the Year and led the Orange with 30 points in 2014. Also returning is leading goalscorer (18) and senior Melissa Piacentini. Lastly, senior Jenn Gilligan will be in the net after spending over 2,000 minutes between the pipes for SU last season and boasting a .901 save percentage.
Flanagan believes the big difference between this years team compared to last year is not only the experience, but the camaraderie.
"Team chemistry is a huge dynamic on any team in any sport and I think we have a real good bunch," said Flanagan.
On Sunday the Orange saw their first action: an exhibition game against Queens University from Ontario, Canada. Although they outshot the Gaels 37-10, Syracuse couldn't find the back of the net, losing by a final of 1-0. The lone goal came off a power play, something Syracuse had yet to work on in practice. Despite the lose, Flanagan says there are positives to take away from the scrimmage.
"Now we have a starting point and things we have to work on. I think the good thing is that we did generate some offense and a lot of it now is just fine tuning things," said Flanagan.
Flanagan and the Orange have time to smooth over the rough edges, they open their season at home against Clarkson on October 6th at 7pm.