Setting a new standard of excellence, Jessica DiGirolamo ended her sterling run with the Syracuse Orange on a highly memorable note. One of the greatest blueliners in program lore, the native of Mississauga, Ontario, contributed towards an historic first, as the Orange gained the College Hockey America (CHA) regular season and playoff championships.
Such a magical season saw the Orange earn the Syracuse University Women’s Team of the Year Award, while DiGirolamo, who served as team captain, earned the ‘Cuse Award for Most Outstanding Player on her team. Accentuating the sense of history, she became the all-time scoring leader among blueliners in Syracuse Orange lore, the achievement assuring DiGirolamo a place among the program’s greats.
An October 14, 2021 affair versus the Colgate Raiders resulted in DiGirolamo assisting on a goal by freshman Madison Primeau. With the helper representing career point 77, she broke the previous program mark for most points by a blueliner, previously held by Nicole Renault. Fast forward to January 28, 2022, DiGirolamo cemented her legacy further, setting the new standard with the Orange for most career assists by a blueliner, recording the 59th of her career. Coincidentally, the goal was also scored by Primeau, experiencing her own milestone, with the first multi-goal game of her NCAA career, part of a 6-1 win versus the Lindenwood Lady Lions.
With career totals of 33 goals, 62 assists and 95 points, DiGirolamo also ranks in the top five all-time in the CHA for goals, assists and points by a blueliner. Equally impressive was the fact that DiGirolamo established herself as a shot blocking specialist over her illustrious career. Blocking an astounding 70 shots as a sophomore, followed by 71 in her junior season, her final season saw her lead all Syracuse blueliners with 74 blocked shots, testament to her tremendous versatility on both ends of the ice.
“Breaking the Syracuse record for most career points by a defenseman was a very incredible feeling. There were a lot of other high-quality players that came before me. It is an honor to have hit this special milestone in my college career and really display the progress that the league and the sport has grown over the last few years.
Additionally, I was proud of myself for allowing this record to be a small reflection of my hard work and dedication over the years. Personally, I want to continue to use this as motivation and drive to excel in my hockey career after college.”
Recognized four times during the 2021-22 season as the CHA Defenseman of the Month, earning the honor in October, November, January and February, it marked only a fraction of the conference accolades bestowed upon DiGirolamo. As 2021-22 marked the 20th season of CHA hockey, DiGirolamo earned a place on the Anniversary Team, dubbed the CHA 20 in 20. Worth noting, other Orange to gain the honor included Lindsay Eastwood, Stephanie Grossi, Allie Munroe and Nicole Renault.
By season’s end, a significant haul of hockey hardware added lustre to her record-breaking numbers. Capturing the CHA Defenseman of the Year Award, a crowning achievement for the highly skilled blueliner, the honor allowed her to join a celebrated sorority of Orange alumnae that have earned such recognition, including Lindsay Eastwood, Allie Munroe, Nicole Renault and Akane Hosoyamada.
Following it up with a well-deserved place on the CHA First Team All-Stars, joined by teammate Arielle DeSmet, who captured CHA Goaltender of the Year, DiGirolamo also earned the USCHO Third Team All Star nod. Worth noting, DiGirolamo also earned CHA Defenseman of the Year and First Team All-star honors in 2021. Elated over the number of accolades, including multiple All-Academic honors, the rewards stand as an example of her sterling work ethic and outstanding commitment.
“To win these awards was a really special addition to my career – I felt very humbled and honored to receive these accolades. Like I said prior, it is reassuring to see that my hard work on and off the ice was being seen and acknowledged.
I really enjoyed my years in the CHA and to be recognized throughout the whole NCAA as a top defenseman was a great achievement. I will continue to cherish these moments and take them with me on my future endeavors.”
On the ice, DiGirolamo proved to be an essential contributor towards the Orange reaching new levels of success. Enjoying a 10-2-1 mark when she logged at least one point, a five-game scoring streak during January involved six points, on the strength of five assists. Such efforts helped start the month on a solid note, as the Orange captured the Battle at the Burgh championship, contested at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Pittsburgh. Fittingly, DiGirolamo was one of four Orange named to the All-Tournament Team, including goaltender Arielle DeSmet, whose first stop in NCAA hockey involved the RMU Colonials, Shelby Calof and Abby Moloughney.
Fittingly, DiGirolamo’s final point in the Syracuse colors provided a facet of serendipity. Facing off versus the Mercyhurst Lakers in the CHA championship game, a hotly contested match required overtime to decide the winner. With a capacity crowd at Tennity Ice Pavilion, DiGirolamo ensured the fans did not leave disappointed. Looking to create offense, DiGirolamo fired a booming shot at the Lakers net. Although goaltender Eva Nystrom managed the save, sophomore Sarah Thompson quickly pounced on the puck, providing the Orange with the jubilation of a conference tournament victory on home ice. Subsequently earning an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, only the second time in program history, it served as the crowning touch for a proud DiGirolamo, landing a place on the CHA All-Tournament Team,
“Regarding the CHA Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance – it was a memory of a lifetime. I was very fortunate enough to be granted a fifth year, in which after my senior year I knew I was not done yet and had some unfinished business to handle.
In being a leader on the team, (it) allowed me to lead my team in a way that would allow us to become the most successful. Based on trust and hard work, we were able to come together and achieve lasting success. I personally wanted to leave a lasting impact on this program, and I feel like we did this year in which I was able to graduate proudly.”
While a landmark season allowed DiGirolamo to graduate in grand fashion, a key parallel to this fascinating narrative involved the close of another compelling chapter. As 2021-22 marked the final season for the acclaimed Paul Flanagan, the only head coach in program history, it added to the emotion of a new standard of excellence established.
Undoubtedly, Flanagan’s tireless efforts in helping to not only build the program, but create an outstanding culture and a competitive program served as motivation for the players who wore the Orange colors. Proud to be a key contributor to his efforts, simultaneously carving her own legacy, the overall experience is one that saw DiGirolamo establish an increased relevance for women’s ice hockey in the university’s sporting conversation.
“Syracuse as a whole was an unbelievable experience that I feel very fortunate and humbled to have been able to call it home for the past 5 years. In terms of what I enjoyed the most about Syracuse – I would have to say the people are what makes it so special. Throughout my duration as a student-athlete at Syracuse University, I have been surrounded by numerous fantastic individuals who really cared for me as a person and did what they could to help me achieve success.
The relationships I made throughout my journey were/are very important to me, in which, I hope to maintain these connections and hope our paths cross again in the future. In terms of the hockey aspect, Syracuse has a very strong culture. It was great to see everyone buying into the culture and really displaying it day in and day out.
Cannot say enough great things about the coaches I had throughout my years. Coach Paul especially impacted me the greatest in my career, and I cannot thank him enough for helping me develop both on and off the ice.
Loved everything about Syracuse and I will be #ForeverOrange.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”