A season ago, the Solvay ice hockey program that used to call the State Fair Coliseum home merged with the Corcoran program, forming the Syracuse Cougars.
And things went quite well, the Cougars going 11-8-2 and making it to the Section III Division I playoffs before a first-round defeat to Cicero-North Syracuse.
In short, it was a mix of modest success and room to improve, keeping head coach John Purcell and his players hungry going into 2013-14.
Division I alignment has changed this winter. Instead of East and West division, there’s American and National Conferences.
Syracuse is part of the American Conference with five-time defending sectional champion West Genesee, Fayetteville-Manlius, Watertown IHC and newcomer Fulton. Rome Free Academy, Liverpool, Baldwinsville, Cicero-North Syracuse and Mohawk Valley (formerly Utica Proctor) are in the National Conference.
As such, when the Cougars faced IHC in last Monday’s season opener at the Watertown Fairgrounds, it was a league game – and Syracuse won it, edging the Cavaliers 3-2 in overtime.
After a slow start from both teams, the Cougars got on the board in the second period, only to surrender that 1-0 edge as Jared Pignone and Chandler Burgenstock both scored for IHC.
Still, Syracuse pushed the game to overtime, and won it when Mitch Laffin scored just 45 seconds into the extra period. Sean Eccles contributed one goal and one assist, with Jared Ristoff, fresh off leading Westhill to the state Class B boys soccer final, also finding the net. Liam Barry added an assist as goaltender Sam Walsh finished with 21 saves.
From there, Syracuse proceeded to its appearance in the Bobby Conklin Memorial Tournament at Lysander Arena, where it had to face host Baldwinsville in Friday night’s opening round.
That didn’t bother the Cougars one bit, as it prevailed 3-2 in a game where it fell behind 2-1 in the first period thanks to goals by the Bees’ Garrett Gray and Adam Tretowicz, but moved back in front during the second period. Eccles, Laffin and Sean Purcell each had one goal, with Pat Farrell adding an assist.