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first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 11, 2015 at 8:46 pm Contact Matt: mralex01@syr.edu Melissa Piacentini stands a few steps in front of the double doors that lead into the Syracuse locker room. She turns, thoughtfully, and points to the set of benches to her left just over her shoulder.“I still remember,” she said. “It was this bench right over here against Lindenwood.”Syracuse’s all-time leading scorer is talking about the only time she was ever benched.Piacentini wasn’t playing up to her abilities, and Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan pulled her out and didn’t put her back in. It happened right before Christmas break during her freshman year. Piacentini had a month to mull things over.“It made me sit back and think about my mistakes and think about how I had been performing back then,” Piacentini said. “It really made me mentally focused and come back ready to be stronger.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textPiacentini called it the “best coaching decision” Flanagan had ever made for her. The move came at the perfect time and she was forced to view things through a different lens. Four years later, one of the most decorated players in Syracuse ice hockey history is gearing up for her final ride. Last season, Syracuse lost in the College Hockey America conference finals. With one last chance, Piacentini is hoping to take care of last season’s unfinished business. “Honestly I can’t say enough good things about her,” Flanagan said. “I’m already dreading losing a player like her to graduation.”Despite standing just 5-foot-2 on the ice, Piacentini can’t be missed. She’s a scrappy, physical player, and has already notched three goals and an assist in two games this season. Goalkeeper Jenn Gilligan played her first season at Syracuse in 2014 after transferring from New Hampshire. She went head-to-head against Piacentini twice, and remembers the shifty, speedy player with a nose for the puck.“Every single time there was a loose puck in front of the net, I just remember her being right there,” she said.In the third period of Syracuse’s season opener against Clarkson on Oct. 6, Piacentini corralled a loose puck off a deflection on the left side of the net and wrapped around to the right side, flicking the puck into the goal.She’s made a living of using her small size to dig out pucks around the net in her time at Syracuse.Gilligan joked that even during practice, Piacentini gets in her grill, acting as a “pot stirrer” in front of the net. After experiencing it from both sides, Gilligan is content just watching. “Every single time I’m in the net against Tini, I just shake my head because I’m like, ‘Thank goodness I don’t have deal with this again against her,’” Gilligan said. Yet for all the fire Piacentini brings to the ice, she also brings to it a sense of calm. In her four years, Flanagan said that Piacentini’s greatest development has been in the cerebral part of her game.From the moment she walked onto the ice as a freshman, Flanagan said, her fundamentals have always been ahead of the curve. Her progression has been a matter of polishing the little things and refining the mental parts of her game. “I think I’ve grown as a person,” Piacentini said. “Just being in the locker room they kind of instill those different life lessons in you and the mental toughness aspect of it all. I think over the years, I’ve just grown to become more mentally strong in terms of staying focused.”As a freshman, Piacentini found herself looking on from afar with four weeks to think things through. Now, she’s better adept at reading and handling situations and recognizing her own mistakes. “Her hockey knowledge just seems to calm everybody down on the team,” Gilligan said. “When she’s out there, we don’t panic as much as maybe we necessarily should.”Against Clarkson, Piacentini skated out for her final home opener. But the emotions were kept in check, and the focus was solely on winning the first CHA conference title and proving Syracuse could compete against anyone. And this time, Piacentini wasn’t on the bench. “I think Tini’s just going to do Tini,” Gilligan said. “…She’s just going to go after it and get done what she needs to get done and I think everybody else will follow after that.” Commentslast_img read more