Thursday, October 11, 2012


The playoffs were so close to the Golden Eagles last season that their fate was not decided until less than 8 seconds remained in the season finale against Morrisville. The controversy-marred game (2 very questionable calls put Brockport at a disadvantage in the closing moments) brought to a close what had been an exciting run for Brockport, one that nearly saw their third postseason in 4 years.

The 2011-2012 installment of the team really hit its stride around Thanksgiving and as the first semester closed out, Brockport pulled off a stunning upset, besting sixth-ranked Elmira in overtime. They overshadowed that masterpiece in February with a victory over perennial SUNYAC powerhouse Plattsburgh, beating the Cardinals for just the second time in 75 matchups and for the first time in 30 years.  Those big wins were highlights for the season and for an era.

The senior class was among the deepest and most storied in school history with the likes of Gregg Amato, James Cody, Ian Finnerty, Brett Jendra, Adam Shoff and Oliver Wren. Throw in junior Nick Panepinto -- who graduated a year early -- and you have an awesome collection of 7 men who produced not only last year, but did so from the very moment they set skate on Tuttle ice 4 years earlier.

They will all be missed by the team – and the fans. None may leave a bigger void than James Cody, who had a record-setting career at Brockport. He was a physical presence and an offensive threat, a rare combo at the DIII level. The two-time All-SUNYAC pick was last season’s SUNYAC Player of the Year and an All-American pick (the first in the program’s history).

Losing a dominant player like Cody to graduation was enough, but losing the others as well? The whole team changes. From Shoff’s guts to Wren’s Big Game focus to Finnerty’s clutch goals, there’s a lot of experience and history lost.

The team could really be considered to be in a rebuilding stage. But is it in the truest sense?

Brockport is chock full of sophomores, juniors and seniors who experienced last season’s stretch run and realized the little things – and the big things – that made the stunning upsets possible.

Consider the defense. The unit is led by All-SUNYAC defenseman Mike Hayward who will assume the mantle of team captain. He put up 14 points on the season, but, more importantly, he kept the SUNYAC’s premier forwards at bay. Then there are the likes of Matt Deluca and his wicked slapshot, and local products Colby Spooner and Sean Wallace who exhibit great defensive fundamentals and are savvy around the net. Last year’s “rookies” were pretty solid, too, guys like Bobby Chayka and Marcus Farmer who have learned the ropes of the NCAA rather quickly.

The forwards have some big skates to fill, but the remnants of last year’s team give us hope. Steve Sachman made good on the promise he showed in the juniors and racked up 16 points. His playmaking skills position him for a run at 25(+) in the coming season. His classmate Chris Cangro chipped in with 8 goals. I like his cerebral approach to the game, one that should see him break the 10-goal barrier. So should sophomore Troy Polino who netted 5 goals and saw more playing time as the season went on. Troy is a strong kid whose goals are of the athletic kind. Then there’s 2-sport star Brendan Rothfuss who is not afraid to take a wicked long-distance shot or get the blue collar goals by rushing the net (he, too, could light the lamp at least 10 times). And, don’t forget Bobby Conner. The red-headed fan favorite missed most of his sophomore season to a knee injury, but he was very productive as freshman and might just rebound for a 20-point season.

Then, there’s the net. Brockport is pretty solid there. As a freshman, Aaron Green pressed Oliver Wren for the starting role for a few weeks last season, and it almost looked like he might take it before Wren put on a goaltending clinic in the second semester. Aaron was the winning netminder in the historic Elmira game and followed it up with just 3 goals allowed against 8th-ranked Neumann. He finished with a decent 4.10 GAA, a number he should take into the 3’s based upon how cool and unflinching he is in goal. Junior Joey Reagan’s save percentage fell to an .873 last season (albeit in just 163 minutes of play) but that belies his skills: He had one of the best seasons ever for a Brockport freshman goaltender, riding a sustained .900 for most of the season, before finally settling at .895.

Another positive in Brockport’s favor is the freshman. The only way to replace a stellar class of graduates is with stellar class of recruits. Time will tell, but at first glance, this bunch has the chance to accomplish as much as the graduates did…maybe more! It’s a deep bunch, each with a unique set of skills and a mental/character make-up that should confound the conference for the next 4 years. Any real hockey fan should feel like a kid in a candy store with this bunch.

Just look at them:

As the upperclassman continue to grow and utilize the experience gleaned in the past season, and the freshman live up to the potential they show, this should be an entertaining, even successful, season for the Golden Eagles. This new youth movement should position them for a run at the playoffs this season and extended runs into the future.

We’ll see what the season holds, but I would not be surprised to see them finish 5th in the SUNYAC this year. The tools are there. They just have to use them.

The season begins on Tuesday, October 23rd on home ice against Nazareth. Don’t miss it!!