Syracuse ice hockey had a very nice weekend. At the varsity level, the women swept Lindenwood to finish out their regular season. On the men's side, the "non-varsity" level, the team was crowned champion in the North division of the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League tournament for the first time in five years. Though this tournament doesn't have any baring as to whether or not a team will make it to the national tournament, these games are still important tune-ups to gain momentum. The team that wins the regular season title receives an auto-bid to Nationals.
Here's how they got there:
Semi-final: Syracuse 10, Cortland 1
The Orange crushed the Red Dragons (15-10-4, 2-6-2 NECHL North) on their way to securing their spot in the championship game. Five different forwards each scored two times, amounting to the team's largest margin of victory on the season. Seniors JR LaPointe and Nolan Metzler, and freshman Keith Lambert had quite a day, adding two assists, as well.
The defense, led by senior captain Nino DiPasquale, held Cortland to a mere 12 shots-on-goal for the entirety of the contest. It was the first playoff victory for Syracuse since they had won the conference in 2011.
North Division Championship: Syracuse 6, No. 19 Niagara 3
With the odds against them to beat a team for the third time in the same season, the Orange carried their momentum from the semi-finals and defeated the Purple Eagles (24-8-2, 7-3-0 NECHL North).
Niagara scored the first goal of the game, but Syracuse was unfazed and rattled off four-straight goals of their own before the first intermission. It would end up being the difference in the game. JR LaPointe made sure that his team would come away victorious, scoring two more goals and cementing the game. The first goal of his hat trick would be the winning goal.
All-NECHL Team Selections
Three players were named to the all-conference first and second teams. Senior Jaime Ketchabaw was named as first-team goalie, and JR LaPointe joined him as a first-team forward. Nino DiPasquale was named as a second-team defenseman. Head Coach Nick Pierandri was named co-Coach of the Year alongside SUNY Buffalo's Sal Valvo.
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With phase one of the postseason now complete, the 18th-seeded Orange are looking forward to their game against 15th-seeded Illinois in the first round of the ACHA National Championships on Thursday, March 3 in Chicago. The winner of that contest will go on to face no. 2 Stony Brook on Friday, March 4. You can check out more about the National Championships on the ACHA website.