Click the play button above to learn more about the Syracuse University men’s club ice hockey team, or read the transcript.
By Cory Berberian SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — There is a sports team on Syracuse University’s campus looking to go further than it ever has before, and it is not the highly-publicized football or basketball teams. The SU men’s ice hockey team is looking to reach new heights in 2018-19.
You probably have not heard much, if at all, about the Syracuse men’s hockey team. They are not a varsity sport under the National Collegiate Athletic Association at Syracuse University, so they compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. SU is ranked #14 in the country in the ACHA’s division 1, the highest tier of ‘club’ hockey teams.
Connor Treacy is the first-year head coach of the club. The Markham, Ontario native and former collegiate hockey player spent five years on SU’s bench as an assistant coach, and he has been comfortable with the switch this season.
“I am definitely comfortable leading the way for the guys,” Treacy said. “The good thing is, there wasn’t much changeover … The transition was quite smooth.”
Treacy also inherited a 32-man roster that includes a great deal of skilled players, but he knows that the talent level is not everything.
“It definitely helps to have some talented players,” Treacy explained. “We are certainly lucky enough to have some talented players, but talent does not win you hockey games. Since day one, we have grown as a team, everybody is working hard day in, day out.”
Among those talented players on Treacy’s team is Peter-Owen Hayward. The junior forward leads Syracuse’s offense with a team-high 14 goals in 14 games this season, and has averaged north of one goal per game throughout his career. Hayward echoes the importance of growing as a team.
“It feels good to be able to come through,” Hayward said. “But honestly, this year, even more than years past … It is just how the team is doing, it is the success of the team, I do not care if I have five points or no points. If we go out there and get a win, that’s the best feeling.”
Syracuse regularly faces off against some of the best teams—and offenses—in all of club hockey. Helping anchor SU’s defense is sophomore Ford Hatchett, and the 6-foot-4 defenseman loves the challenge.
“I think those are the fun ones,” Hatchett said. “If you can not get up for those games, you are playing the wrong sport, or you need to check your pulse. In those types of game, it is easy to get excited or amped up.”
The club has high aspirations for this season, perhaps more so than any other year previously. Syracuse is seeking its first Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League championship in team history. A preseason ranking had SU dead-last of the six teams in the league. Senior captain and four-year player Connor McNamara believes those unsatisfying rankings serve as catalysts for the group to play even better.
“Every time you get a coaches’ poll out and we are down where we do not expect to be, it is a huge motivator because we just want to come out and prove everyone wrong,” said McNamara. “We know where we should be.”
Hatchett has a different perspective on the polls.
“For me, it is not as much about the rankings right now,” Hatchett said. “For me right now, it is testing how high we can go … The motivator for me is how high we can take this thing and where we can get.”
The highest a team can go in any season is winning the national tournament. The top 20 teams of the 60 total in Syracuse’s division qualify for a trip to Frisco, TX in March of 2019. SU has been to the national tournament before, but has never advanced beyond the second round. Hayward knows that making the field simply is not good enough.
“We just played two games, two very good games, against the defending national champion in our rink,” Hayward said. “Everyone on this team believes that we can win the national championship.”
Head coach Treacy also believes that this year’s team can be the one to make that next step.
“We have continued to get better week in, week out,” Treacy explained. “Our practices are getting better, our tempo, our pace, everything is getting better. So if we continue to get better throughout the year, I really like our chances come March-time.”
Hayward, an assistant captain this season, thinks this year’s group could be the best-ever iteration of the Syracuse men’s hockey team.
“We have got four strong lines,” Hayward said. “We have got solid defensive corps back there, we have got strong goaltending. I think we are the most talented team top-to-bottom that we have ever been.”
Syracuse still has roughly half the season still to be played. McNamara has a message for anyone standing in his team’s way.
“On any given day, we are ready to come at you,” McNamara proclaimed. “So no matter who you are, we are going to take you on, and we are going to give you a fight.”
The Orange are next in action against New York University on Friday, December 7 in New York, New York. Their regular season campaign ends on Saturday, March 2.