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Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan, the only head coach in program history, announced his retirement on Wednesday after 23 seasons as a head college hockey coach, according to a press release from SU Athletics. His retirement comes after the Orange won their second College Hockey America championship and qualified for their second NCAA Tournament berth.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity Syracuse University gave me 14 years ago to build a Division I women’s ice hockey program here,” Flanagan said in the press release. “Working alongside so many experienced coaches and capable staff members has made coaching in our athletics department a wonderful and very rewarding experience.”
Flanagan got his first collegiate head coaching job at his alma mater St. Lawrence in 1999. In nine seasons with the Saints, Flanagan won 230 games and made the women’s Frozen Four five times. Flanagan’s four-year run (2003-07) of Frozen Four appearances is also tied for the longest in college hockey. In 2001, Flanagan won the American Hockey Coaches Association’s coach of the year award, an award he was named a finalist for this season.
In 2008, after a brief stint as an assistant coach for the U.S. Women’s Select and National teams, Flanagan became Syracuse’s head coach of its new women’s ice hockey team. After the Orange finished below .500 in three of the first four seasons in program history, Flanagan coached the team to a winning record in the 2012-13 season. That season, the Orange advanced to the CHA championship for the first time, where they lost to Mercyhurst.
Over his tenure at SU, Flanagan coached some of the conference’s best players. His players have won many CHA awards, including seven Best Defensemen, six Best Defensive Forwards, four Rookies of the Year, two Goaltending Trophy Award winners, one Player of the Year and one Goaltender of the Year. He coached the program’s first four 100-career-point scorers (Melissa Piacentini, Stephanie Grossi, Ashley Cockell and Abby Moloughney).
In the 2018-19 season, with a mix of veterans such as Allie Munroe and Brooke Avery and young contributing freshmen such as Moloughney and Lauren Bellefontaine, Flanagan and the Orange won their first conference title. Despite having a 13-22-3 record, SU defeated Lindenwood, Mercyhurst and Robert Morris to win the CHA Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, the Orange lost 4-0 to the eventual national champions, top-ranked Wisconsin.
Syracuse would go on to have a losing season the next year, but then a winning season and an appearance in the CHA championship in a season shortened by COVID-19. In the 2021-22 season, now-seniors Moloughney and Bellefontaine combined with fifth-year players Jessica DiGirolamo and Victoria Klimek to create a “super senior class.” This, along with solid freshmen Madison Primeau and Sarah Marchand, helped the Orange jump from a slow start in October and November to a run in January and February where they only lost one game.
In the CHA Tournament, Flanagan coached SU to back-to-back overtime victories against RIT and Mercyhurst to secure the program’s second conference championship. The Orange eventually lost to Quinnipiac 4-0 in the regional semifinals in the NCAA Tournament.
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