It’s been a whirlwind season for the Syracuse Orange women’s ice hockey team. After starting off slow, the squad caught fire to start the new year and never looked back, taking the conference by storm and winning the CHA regular season and tournament Championships.
It’s everything Captain Jessica DiGirolamo could have asked for.
When the graduate student made the decision to return for a fifth year, she thought long and hard about how close they came to a championship last year - and how that was not the way she wanted to go out.
“This is what I wanted to do for my fifth year,” DiGirolamo said. “This is what we wanted. But we’re not done yet, that’s for sure.”
DiGirolamo had an important part to play for Syracuse this season, especially down the stretch. She was the team’s best defenseman, earning CHA Defenseman of the month for February. She also picked up a critical assist on Sarah Thompson’s overtime goal in the CHA Championship game.
!— Syracuse Athletics (@Cuse) February 26, 2022
Sarah Thompson's OT goal wins @CuseIce the CHA Championship! pic.twitter.com/6rIWNmT5IB
“She’s just a really dynamic player,” said Head Coach Paul Flanagan. “She played I think 35 or 36 minutes on Saturday. I mean, we were in overtime, but that’s a lot of ice time.”
As someone who was here in 2019, when the Orange were a one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament, DiGirolamo knows that their next matchup won’t be easy.
“Going to the NCAA Tournament before, it was definitely not the outcome we wanted,” DiGirolamo said. “But we did learn a few things. It’s more of just letting my teammates to know what to expect.”
The Orange have also been aided by Goaltender Arielle DeSmet. The transfer senior has been lights-out in-between the pipes this season: she has an outstanding .937 save percentage and allows less than two goals per game. The highlight of the season for DeSmet came during the team’s series at Penn State, where she turned aside 99 shots! That incredible performance let the Orange overtake the Nittany Lions for first place.
They never looked back.
Is 9⃣9⃣ saves a lot? Because it sounds like a lot. @adesmet32 turned away a CHA season series high 99 shots in Syracuse's two games at Penn State this weekend.#CHA20 pic.twitter.com/8VKx7gF9wN— CHA (@CHAWomensHockey) February 6, 2022
“It was definitely a great point (in) the season,” DeSmet said. “Everything had kind of been building up to that.”
Ironically, it was DeSmet that prevented the Orange from being in this spot last year - she was the goalie for Robert Morris University during their title run. She only transferred because the school unexpectedly cut their women’s hockey program over the summer.
“It was great to win back-to-back (championships),” DeSmet said. “It’s something that I had really came into this year with the mindset to do.”
Moving forward, the most important thing SU needs to do is keep up the momentum. They’ve been scorching hot since winter break ended, going 9-1-2 in that stretch.
“We’ve been playing great the second half of the season, only losing one game in 2022,” DeSmet said. “We have so much confidence coming off the CHA’s, and we’re going to continue that into the NCAA finals.”
The Selection Show will be Sunday night at 9. That’s when the Orange will learn their opponent in the first round - and who they must beat to take the program to new heights.
Best of luck to the Orange in the NCAA Tournament.