Dominant Utica basketball and ice hockey teams standout heading to playoffs


Kayleigh Sturtevant

Utica University men’s ice hockey team celebrates a win at center ice.

Matthew Robinson, Staff Writer

Utica University athletics achieved great success this winter and each team is looking to keep their foot on the gas heading into their respective championships. 

Athletic Director Dave Fontaine expressed his enthusiasm for the success of many student-athletes this winter. Their individual achievements have not only brought victory, but have also influenced a contagiously thrilling environment that this campus hasn’t been able to experience in quite a few years. 

“Last year was challenging with having winter sports in the spring season because of COVID, but it allowed us this year to be certainly more prepared for what can happen in the future,” Fontaine said. “I think we have a system in place where our athletic trainers, emergency management and the whole college administration has been more comfortable dealing with COVID.”

The Utica University men’s basketball team notched two important wins over conference rivals Nazareth College, who were ranked 23rd in the country before the loss to Utica, and St. John Fisher College last weekend. 

Against the nationally ranked Nazareth team, the Pioneers were unstoppable, never letting Nazareth take the lead and shutting them down with a nearly 20- point margin by the end of the game. 

In their game against St. John Fisher on Feb. 12, celebrating their Senior Night, the team had an even more notable outing, outsourcing the Cardinals 72-46. Graduate student Kobe Lufkin had a night to remember, going 7-10 from three and finishing with 29 points. 

These past two games are just a part of the 11-game win streak they currently hold. The team’s last loss came to Nazareth back in mid-January, in which the Pioneers fell short by 40 points.  

After winning the Empire 8 championship last season, there doesn’t seem to be any signs of slowing down. Staying focused and working hard is what senior guard Chris Green spoke about when asked what it will take to go back-to-back.

“Focus, practice, take our time, get in the gym, do extra work, watch films and just continue what we are doing,” Green said. “I just feel like we must beat everyone from now on. Beating Fisher again at their home court was the most exciting part of the season so far for me and getting a top five ranking in the region.” 

The Pioneers are at the top of the conference right now with a 20-3 overall record and 13-1 record in conference play. The team is also No. 3 in the region, which ties the highest ranking in team history. The season will finish up with a trip to Alfred University on Feb. 19 at 4:00pm. Following this game, the Pioneers are likely to host the Empire 8 championship tournament. 

Likewise, showing their dominance on Miga Court, the women’s basketball team is having one of their best seasons in program history. 

Senior Sydney Przygoda is leading the team with 15.4 points a game and averaging 10.5 rebounds per game. Senior, Cora Sawyer is not far behind, repping similar numbers this season as she is averaging 10.6 points per game and 6.3 rebounds, but her defensive presence is what sets her apart.

“I think the team has been so successful because of the family,” Przygoda said. ”Everyone on the team wants each other to do well. We come to practice every day ready to work and get better. Our mindset is to play our game and try not to focus on what happened last time.”

The team’s final two games of the regular season are on the road; They face Houghton College on Feb. 18 and Alfred University on Feb. 19. Both teams put up a fight against Utica during their last outings, and the Pioneers’ previous game verus Alfred was a thrilling overtime victory for Utica. 

At this point, the women sit fourth in the conference and have secured themselves a spot in the postseason. 

The men’s and women’s ice hockey teams have been nothing but exceptional at this point in the season, with the men standing 20-2-1 and 15-0-1 in conference play, while the women are 20-3 with a 17-1 conference record. 

The men just clinched their fifth straight UCHC regular season title after their battle with Wilkes University ended in a tied shootout on Feb.12. 

Meanwhile, the Women set a new single season win record this past weekend with two victories over Wilkes Feb. 11 and 12. Senior Georgiana Santullo finished with four points, and with that has become the first player in 18 years and third in program history to record 50 points in a season and the sixth player at Utica to record 100 points in her career. 

The women will be home both Feb. 18 and 19 as they face nationally ranked Nazareth College to finish the regular season. Nazareth is the only team that sits above them in the UCHC standings.

The men return home, Feb. 19 against Manhattanville and Feb. 20 to face Neumann University. 

Both men’s and women’s hockey begin their UCHC conference playoffs Tuesday, Feb. 22.