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Syracuse can clinch 1st-round bye in CHA tournament with win against Robert Morris

first_img Published on February 10, 2016 at 11:08 pm Contact Chris: [email protected] Paul Flanagan’s message to his team last week was to play a complete 120 minutes of hockey. Syracuse did just that, earning two wins against Penn State in the SU’s first sweep of an opponent in a single weekend.This week, the direction is the opposite.“We’re just focused on Friday night,” Flanagan, SU’s head coach said.That’s because the Orange (14-13-4, 10-4-2 College Hockey America) would clinch a first-round bye in the CHA tournament with a win over conference foe Robert Morris (14-11-5, 6-6-4) on Friday or Saturday.Top-seed Mercyhurst currently leads the Orange in the conference standings by two points with four games left in the regular season. Meanwhile third-ranked RMU trails SU by six points and Penn State, Lindenwood and RIT are all too low in the standings to make a push for a first-round bye.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textA win over Robert Morris on Friday or Saturday would prevent the Colonials from moving into second place and earning the only other first-round bye. And while either day would suffice to beat RMU, Flanagan insists that his team gets the job done on Friday night.“The task at hand is getting those two points,” Flanagan said. “Our mindset is all about Friday night. Let’s get those two points and see where we go from there.”If the team ends up with the No. 2 spot in the conference, SU would have to travel to Mercyhurst for the CHA final if both the Orange and Lakers make it to the championship round. After never beating Mercyhurst in program history prior to last season, Syracuse has defeated the Lakers both at home and on the road this year.Flanagan said he thinks his team is better than the current top-seed Lakers this season. But he was worried about his team’s ability to find ways to win games, as SU hadn’t won back-to-back contests against the same opponent.That changed last weekend, when the Orange won both against the Nittany Lions. Jessica Sibley’s overtime goal sealed a victory on Friday, while Syracuse maintained a 2-1 second-period lead to win on Saturday.“In a couple games, we’ve gotten ahead and we’ve laid back,” defender Heather Schwarz said. “That wasn’t true this time around. When we got ahead, we kept pushing.”While Flanagan is stressing earning the clinching win on Friday night, his players, including defender Morgan Blank, want to build on the confidence established last weekend and earn the top seed.“I know no one wants to settle for second,” Blank said. “Everyone’s looking to get first, to beat Mercyhurst. I’m really hoping Mercyhurst loses this weekend and we can take that momentum into the playoffs.”If Mercyhurst loses once this weekend and Syracuse sweeps Robert Morris, the two will be tied for first place in the CHA standings heading into the final weekend of the regular season.But SU may have problems with Robert Morris’ impressive power-play. The Colonials have scored on 24 percent of its power-play opportunities, a high percentage compared to SU’s 14-percent conversion rate. Three of the last eight goals surrendered by the Orange have been power-play goals.“I don’t know the referee assignments, I’m a little nervous,” Flanagan said. “They’ve got a dynamic power play. They’ve scored a high percentage of their goals on the power play. Our (penalty kill) needs to be ready.”But Schwarz says improved chemistry on SU’s four lines — and the team’s overall development — give Syracuse an advantage over Robert Morris’ defense.“We weren’t consistent with moving our feet and being defensive against (RMU),” Schwarz said. “Since the season has gone on, that’s gotten a lot better.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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