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After winning the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association regular season with a 13-1-1 record in the 2019-20 season, the Syracuse roller hockey team earned an automatic bid to nationals.
The team was looking forward to their chance of playing for a national championship, though SU lost to Oswego in the semifinals of the regional tournament. But the pandemic canceled the national tournament, and their season ended abruptly.
“We were waiting on our bid to nationals,” second-year graduate student and assistant captain Ethan Clearfield said. “And then the pandemic shut everything down, and unfortunately, there is less than a 1% chance that we will be able to play in nationals this year.”
Since the pandemic, the team has not played a single game. SU grants travel exemptions to NCAA teams, but club teams are bound by the university’s Stay Safe Pledge and can’t travel outside of central New York. This has been devastating to the players, Clearfield said, as they had momentum from last season and felt like they had a chance to win the division again.
Because the team can’t compete, the players have spent this year trying to build for the future and make a run at the 2022 national championship.
The roller hockey team has been practicing all season. It wasn’t allowed to practice in the fall since it’s a “high-risk” sport, but it has been practicing at the Barnes Center at The Arch this spring. The players practice when they can and work to build their off-rink chemistry by going out to dinners and hanging out in a manner that’s safe during the pandemic, Clearfield said.
“This semester, we can have up to 12 people on the rink,” sophomore defenseman Brian Belluscio said. “Last semester, it was only four, making it very hard to run a practice.”
Without knowing when it will play its next game, the team is working with new players to improve ahead of next season. The team’s freshmen still have not had an opportunity to compete against other schools in a Syracuse roller jersey.
Freshman Dan Carroll played hockey when he was in high school, and he decided to join the roller hockey team even though he knew he wouldn’t compete. Carroll wanted to stick around because he didn’t always think he would play on a club team in college.
“I am looking forward to finally playing a game with them after a year of only practicing,” Carroll said.
Several players left the team between the fall and spring semester for multiple reasons, including Greek life, Carroll said.
Although it hasn’t been able to have a normal season, the team is preparing in any way it can, with aspirations to continue the success it had prior to the pandemic.
“Next year, we want to win the national championship, and I believe with the mix of the experienced players, along with the developing younger guys, we really have a chance,” Belluscio said.
Syracuse plans to resume in-person classes this fall, and Belluscio is optimistic that the team will also be able to resume gameplay. The team will be returning a mix of veterans and younger players, including juniors Dante Giugliano and Evan Baum and sophomores Belluscio and Blake Taub. Three players are also graduating, including Clearfield, captain Marc Orlin and Jamie Kreinces.
Clearfield’s final goal for the team is to make sure that it continues its success throughout the pandemic and into next semester.
“As the recruitment chair at my prior university (Miami Ohio), I watched the program fold only two years after I graduated,” Clearfield said. “So I would love to leave this program in a place where it can continue to thrive.”
For now, the Syracuse roller hockey team will continue to prepare for next season on and off the rink. The team has big aspirations for the fall — including defeating their rival Endicott and winning a national championship.
The post After 2021 season cancellation, SU roller hockey prepares for next year appeared first on The Daily Orange.