2021-22 CHA Tournament Preview

Story posted February 23, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Dylan Price

This weekend in Syracuse, New York, the College Hockey America conference will crown its champion as it concludes its 20th season.

The weekend begins with a matchup between the No. 5 RIT Tigers (1-26-4) and the No. 4 Lindenwood Lions (6-21-1). The Tigers are fresh off three of their best games of the season in their last four games, tying with Penn State last weekend and tying with the Lions, as well as winning their only game of the season against the Lions on Feb. 12.

For RIT, freshman goalie Sarah Coe was recently named to the CHA’s All-Rookie team. She has stepped up significantly in recent weeks and begun to garner respect as one of the top up and coming goaltenders in the CHA.

For the Lions, the road to victory in this contest, as well as potentially in the tournament will ride behind leading scorers Sierra Burt, grad student and Casey Adimey, senior defender, who have combined for 37 points on the season and 12 goals.

The Tigers led the season series with two wins, with the Lions winning one and the two teams tied the other contest. The two teams clash with a spot in the semifinal against the No. 1 Syracuse Orange on the line.

The top dog in this tournament awaits either Lindenwood or RIT and the No.1 Orange (13-10-6) figure to be the favorites in the tournament, currently coming in as the top seed and CHA regular-season champions.

Coach Paul Flanagan is coming off a CHA coach of the year award, Jessica DiGirolamo, a recent first-team all-CHA recipient currently stands one goal shy of the CHA all-time career record and was the recipient of the CHA defensemen of the year award.

Elsewhere, the team had five other all-CHA representatives and boasted a roster with veteran experience that could give the team their best chance to win a conference title for the first time since 2019.

The top clash in the first round figures to be between the No. 3 seed Mercyhurst Lakers (20-11-2) and the No. 2 seed Nittany Lions (18-9-5). The season series was 3-1, tipping in favor of the Nittany Lions.

CHA Player of the Year Natalie Heising will lead the Nittany Lions, alongside one of the top goaltenders in the CHA, Josie Bothun who posted 1.61 goals against on average, leading the CHA.

For Mercyhurst, freshman Vanessa Upson is the leading rookie scorer in the CHA and has given opposition fits all season. The matchup could go either way and figures to be a barn burner.

All in all, the tournament is set to be a good one with key storylines like how can Syracuse use the top seed and home crowd to their advantage?

Will Penn State or Mercyhurst be able to challenge for the crown, or maybe an upset from Lindenwood or RIT could await? It’s anyone’s race as one team looks to lock themselves into the NCAA tournament.

Dylan Price is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email dvp5625@psu.edu.