Syracuse men’s club ice hockey team amid historic season, building foundation for strong future
Men’s basketball, football and men’s lacrosse.
These three sports have always garnered the most support on Syracuse’s campus. But with the way the SU men’s club ice hockey team has been playing this season, there might be a need to spread the attention to a lesser-known squad.
The team is having an outstanding season with a 20-5-2 record, and recently won the university’s first-ever Northeast Collegiate Hockey League regular-season title. By reaching that mark, the Orange clinched a berth to the American Collegiate Hockey Association national championships, also a program first.
Nationals are to be held in Delaware this March, featuring the top 20 ACHA Division I men’s club hockey teams in the country. Syracuse will face off against Oakland on March 6 in its first game of the tournament.
As a club sport, not a lot of attention has been given to the team, but its historic accomplishments have certainly warranted some.
“We feel like we deserve more attention,” said head coach Nick Pierandri. “We have some really good hockey players and they’ve played absolutely phenomenal this year.”
The team has been hungry as a result of its success.
Senior captain Russell Suskind said the team has played with a chip on its shoulder all year long and has always been striving to play better. The hockey team has felt that despite its relatively new emergence as a contender, the Orange is for real.
And senior Niall Harding, one of the team’s three captains, likes his team’s odds against anyone.
“Not a lot of people respect us because of our regular-season schedule and we’re not high in the rankings,” said Harding. “Still, I know we have serious potential to go deep into the tournament.”
At one point, reaching the national tournament may have been unrealistic. The program has improved drastically throughout the past few years, to the point where a berth to the tournament is now a reality.
Harding attributes the team’s historic success this season to the addition of Pierandri in this past offseason.
“Coach P harnesses our talent and puts it into a system so we’re more effective as a team,” said Harding. “We’re small and fast, so he works to our strengths. He teaches us situational play, something we didn’t have as much emphasis on before. He keeps us motivated, disciplined and focused.”
The emphasis on focus and motivation has been in place from the moment Pierandri took the helm this season.
“I came in and helped them realize their potential,” the head coach said. “The talent has been here all along, but it took some buying into a system.”
The Orange hopes that this season’s success will continue, and in turn, help pave the road for a bright future for the program. The season has started to catch the attention in small hockey circles around the country, and many people are beginning to take Syracuse seriously as a hockey destination.
Pierandri said that he felt like the team’s success has been a major factor in convincing some very good hockey players to forgo playing for a Division III school, and instead choose to lace up the skates for Syracuse.
This season has already been wildly successful, but the team is not done yet. What was once a pipe dream is now a reality as it looks forward to the league playoffs, the national tournament and beyond.
“To see where the program was four years ago, where it is right now, and then looking ahead is something else,” said Suskind. “Syracuse hockey is going to be a force for a long time.”
Published on February 26, 2014 at 11:13 am