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first_img Published on February 17, 2016 at 9:50 pm Contact Chris: cfthomse@syr.edu A five-game winning streak. Back-to-back sweeps of conference opponents. Winner of eight of its last 11 games.The Orange is ending its regular season by playing its best hockey of the year. But even with only two games left, SU is still operating at full speed in hopes of earning the top seed in the conference.“We need to win both games, especially going into the playoffs,” defender Nicole Renault said. “We have that bye week, so we can leave on a good foot. We’re not satisfied with where we are.”Syracuse (16-13-3, 12-4-2 College Hockey America) is still second in the CHA standings to Mercyhurst, who also swept its opponent, RIT, last weekend. That’s forced head coach Paul Flanagan and his team to keep up its consistent play this weekend against Lindenwood (8-20-4, 5-9-4). In order to clinch first outright, Syracuse must win both games while Mercyhurst must lose or tie its two games.“There’s still a lot on the line on Friday,” Flanagan said. “We have to do our job, and potentially Penn State (who faces Mercyhurst this weekend) will help us out, which would set the stage for Saturday, where we have to win again.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFive-game winning streaks are rare for SU. The Orange’s last one came in early 2013, highlighted by a win over No. 3 Boston College. Syracuse has never had one this late in the season, which Flanagan considers a huge advantage compared to his past teams.Even if Flanagan wasn’t forced to win this weekend in order to earn the No. 1 rank in the conference, he would still try to keep the Orange’s confidence going.“We’re trying to maintain the status quo,” Flanagan said. “We’re keeping things very similar. After five months, you’re in a pretty good routine.”He couldn’t be happier that his schedule ends with four home games, which allows all of his players to maintain their regular routines. He cancelled practice on Monday for the third consecutive week. He’s continued to back off with his criticisms. And he’s cut down on his overall time spent with the team, which he says isn’t even close to the maximum 20 hours granted by the NCAA.All are signs of trust in his team’s experience and morale. The Orange’s six-goal period against Robert Morris last Saturday is all the evidence he needs, which he called the strongest 20 minutes his team has played this season.“We’re hitting full stride here,” Flanagan said. “The girls feel pretty good about themselves, and so much in sport is about having confidence. I think as a group, the girls have so much confidence.”But Syracuse isn’t the only team in the conference playing at its best right now. Rival Mercyhurst has won seven of its last nine matchups, including its last four.The Lakers’ last loss was a 2-1 loss to Syracuse on Jan. 30, thanks to Jessica Sibley’s game-winner with a minute and a half left in overtime.The Orange’s last defeat was a 4-1 loss to Mercyhurst on Jan. 29.Since then, Flanagan thinks his team has learned to prevent mistakes late in games that have led to losses earlier this season.“We’ve been able to clamp down defensively when we’ve needed to,” Flanagan said. “Whether it’s making a good play, getting the puck out of the zone or clearing rebounds, or (goalie Jenn Gilligan) making a good save.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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