Last season was one of the greatest in the history of the Brockport ice hockey program. The team went 14-10-3 overall which represented the third most wins in team history, just a little behind the high water mark of 17 set in the 1987-1988 campaign. Over the course of the season the team looked like a force to reckon with, relying on relentless physicality and hustle, captivating goaltending, and some magical teamwork to bring the program its first-ever home playoff game and first-ever playoff victory (a convincing 3-1 win over Potsdam).
For fans who appreciate the finer points of the game and admire players who understand that this is a team sport, the Golden Eagles were a real treat to watch. Fans – both new and old- recognized this and poured into the Tuttle North ice arena en masse. A team that typically drew 400 to 800 fans per game over the past decade was suddenly followed by 1,200 to more than 1,800 fans during every home game, among the best turnouts in Division III.
And, to think, this team that was suddenly so victorious and so beloved wasn’t expected to reach such heights so quickly by most people who follow NCAA hockey. After seeing the team lose 12 players to graduation prior to last season, SUNYAC coaches and analysts predicted the team was going to be a doormat last year. They weren’t because no one took into account the character of the team. Having watched DIII hockey for 16 seasons, last year’s team was one of the hardest-working and most cohesive teams I have ever seen…Brockport or otherwise. The team came to expect victory because everyone looked out for one another and selflessly gave of themselves for the common goal.
This season…expect more of the same.
Despite losing 6 key seniors at the end of last season (including captain Dave McNab and all-SUNYAC defenseman Mike Gershon), the core of the team remains intact and looks to continue that success.
Captaining the team this year is Justin Noble, one who leads by the ultimate example. Last season he put the fear of God into many an opponent, chasing the puck around the rink and out-muscling and out-working anyone who got in his way. Possessed of almost limitless energy, his style of play is what the team is built on. The younger guys and new additions have fed - and will feed - off of his impressive on-ice work ethic.
When asked for his thoughts on the upcoming season Justin answered:
“As for the upcoming season we must follow what made us successful last year. Coaches have really been stressing that for us to be successful we must out work our opposition each time we get on the ice. We saw what that kind of effort can accomplish and there is no doubt that we can take that to the next level this season. We have a lot of returners this year who know how good winning feels and have learned to hate and not accept losing. Our new players must have that mindset this year for us to be successful. This is going to be a fun season with a lot of promise and can't wait to get it started in Potsdam.”
Anchoring the Number #1 line with Noble and leading scorer James Cody (24 points) will be Ray Tremblay, one of the assistant captains. Ray exudes leadership as well and there is no finer example than his determination to succeed following a debilitating back injury that would have terminated most anyone’s hockey career. He overcame that adversity without missing a beat. Ray is a smart and gifted player destined to have a 30-point season whether this season or next.
When asked about the team’s strengths, he responded with:
“I think our greatest strengths this year will be our work ethic, our speed, especially up front, and our goaltending. I think that for us to be successful we have to be the hardest working team in the SUNYAC, and I believe that we will. We have great speed up front and we will need to utilize that for us to be successful. Our goaltending will again be a strength for us, as we have Todd Sheridan for another season. Oliver Wren will also be a key impact for our success, as he is looking great so far this year.”
The other alternate captain is senior Sean O’Malley, a gamer who has put together a pretty good career at Brockport. A playmaker who led the team with 17 assists last year (a year after a 10-goal season), he has great vision for the game and his awareness gets him into position to make plays whether on the offensive or defensive. I asked Sean how the team would perform in the super-competitive SUNYAC, the toughest division in all of NCAA hockey and one in which he has made his mark the past 3 seasons. He said the following:
“We have a solid team this year, we have a great of group guys who are willing to pay the price. A huge factor this year I believe will be our speed, our forwards are quick especially,on the forecheck and our defenseman are making smart decisions with the puck in the defensive zone. I believe our speed and our ability to score on special teams will make us a great SUNYAC team. Also, our goaltending is a huge factor and we feel very confident in that department.”
Brian offers this insight into the upcoming season….
“The coaching staff is excited to get started. We're all looking forward to picking up where we left off last season and as we hope to secure a spot in the SUNYAC tournament and hopefully improve on our semi final appearance. We feel we have the players to be able to compete with everyone on our schedule.”
“We certainly feel we have strong goaltending as All Conference selection Todd Sheridan is back for his senior season. Todd has lowered the career goals against average record each of his 3 seasons here and we're looking forward to having him break it again. Each night Todd is in the net, he gives us a chance to win. Oliver Wren and Josh Roarke are capable backups who we have high confidence in when they're called upon.”
“We're excited to see what our forwards will bring to the season. We have our top line back intact. Ray Tremblay will center Justin Noble and James Cody. Cody was our leading scorer and both Justin and Ray have looked good during the preseason and we expect big years from them all offensively. Jason Gorrie will center Sean O'Malley and Tom Galiani and these three have the skills to put up good numbers as well. Defensively we have forwards who understand our philosophy of coming back and helping out with strength in numbers down low and quick transition. Adam Shoff and Ryan Silveira will also be looked upon to create offense. Chris Berardini, Brett Jendra and Ian Finnerty will hopefully evolve into everyday players. Freshmen Dan Galiani, Nick Panepinto and Sean Archer as well as Sophomore Alex Pelligra provide depth and have the skills needed to help out when in the lineup.”
“We lost an All Conference defenseman in Mike Gershon and lost two others to either graduation or transfer. Returners Gregg Amato, Tyler Davis and Alan Liwush all saw significant minutes last year and will be counted on to control the play in our end. Newcomers Mike Hayward and Adam Korol will hopefully provide depth to the defensive corps right away. Junior Nick Sampson and first year guys, Clint Campbell and Colby Spooner will compete for lineup time as well.”
“The SUNYAC will once again be a dogfight with all teams able to win on any given night. We will not be able to rest on our success from last year and be able to be successful. We will need to bring our 'A' game each night and play extremely well defensively as well as have an opportunistic offense if we expect to make the playoffs. Looking past anyone will cost teams points this year.”
Looking at that solid roster that Brian and assistant coach Mark Digby have put together --one of stingy defense, productive offense, wily special teams and the record-setting goaltending -- and the leadership that the captains and other veterans bring to the ice, the locker room, and the class room, the team has every piece of the puzzle it needs to match and exceed last year’s record. As a matter of fact, I’ll predict a 14-10-1 overall regular season record with a 9-7-0 performance in the SUNYAC.
Expectations are high, but that comes with the high-quality product being put on the ice. As a whole, the team expects 100% effort and 100% commitment 100% of the time. With that sort of approach to the game you can expect great things.