Toyota High School Athlete of the Week- Ryan Eccles

Ryan Eccles celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in the Section III Championship. This weekend, his Syracuse Cougars are in the New York State Championships in Buffalo (Matt Hauswirth)

The Syracuse City School District hockey team is off to the state championships this weekend.

It's been a wild ride for the Cougars, winning in four-overtimes in the Section III Championship over West Genesee and beating the Section V champion Pittsford at Meachem Rink 2-1 last weekend.

Now, the journey continues at the New York State Championships at the Harbor Center in Buffalo against Orchard Park on Saturday.

A journey made easier, by the services of senior Ryan Eccles.

Eccles is already committed to play lacrosse at Albany next year, the fourth and final Eccles to make that trek east on I-90 for college athletics.

While lacrosse is his future, right now, Eccles can only think about hockey and the opportunity on the line for this team. A chance to play for a New York State title.

“The work ethic and intensity at practice is unparalleled. It’s higher than it’s ever been in my five years on this team. It’s never been this high" Eccles said on Thursday.

So far this season, Ryan is tied for the team lead with 54 points by way of 21 goals and 33 assists.

More valuable than that? His leadership for a Cougars team hitting its stride at the right time.

“The team we have this year, you don’t really have to tell them much to get them going. Everybody here wants to win, everybody wants to work hard.”

Eccles is well aware of what's at stake this weekend.

Not only is it memories for Ryan and his teammates to carry with them forever, it's a chance at Syracuse city pride.

Our winter-pride city, could be home to the best high school hockey team in the entire Empire State.

“It’s great to have all the support that we do and everybody that comes to the games" Ryan says.

"We had a sold-out crowd last game here and that was just amazing to play in front of all of those people and knowing that everybody is supporting us.”

Indeed they are, and are hoping the Cougars come back to the 'Cuse with a New York State title trophy on Sunday night.

Following that game with Orchard Park at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, if the Cougars win, they would face the victor of the Suffern vs. Canton game for the championship on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

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