Saturday, February 25, 2017

2016-2017 season in review

The 2016-2017 Golden Eagles exceeded expectations

To outsiders, it looked like the Golden Eagles hockey program was in a rebuilding stage heading into the 2016-2017 season after losing the most decorated senior class in the college’s history. At the 2016 graduation ceremonies, the team said “good bye” to a two-time All-American (Chase Nieuwendyk), Brockport’s only 3-time All-SUNYAC pick (blueliner Chris Luker) and the College’s first SUNYAC Defensive Player of the Year (Chad Cummings).

As scary as those losses could have been, players, coaches, and fans of the Golden Eagles knew this year’s model was in far better shape than others might think. Those who were underclassmen in 2015-2016 had matured dramatically on the ice and they had tasted excellence, and knew what was needed going into this season.  

Last year’s squad went 11-11-4. This year’s team matched that win total with an 11-14-1 record.

How special was that? It was only the sixth double digit win total for the program this century.

This is a young team that exceeded the expectations of outsiders yet met the expectations that they had set for themselves. It made for an interesting season, one that saw the Golden Eagles head into the playoffs and entertain fans throughout the year.

Here’s a look at some big performances and big performers:

The last weekend of the first semester: Heading into the always tough North Country road trip, Brockport had a conference record of 2 wins against 5 losses and looked like they were close to being ousted from the playoffs before the second semester even began. Then, fortunes changed. Brockport beat Potsdam 3-2 that Friday. Then, on that Saturday, they did the unprecedented. They beat Plattsburgh at Plattsburgh for the first time in 44 tries! That no doubt led to a celebration worldwide amongst Golden Eagle alumni who had been hoping for the taste of such a victory. 

Shutting out Plattsburgh granted this young man legend status

Matt Schneider: As if the victory at Plattsburgh wasn’t sweet enough, it was a shutout. That, in itself, catapulted freshman goaltender Matt Schneider into folk hero status in the hockey program. Like a modern day Paul Revere or Johnny Appleseed, he’ll always be known as “the guy who shutout the Cardinals at Plattsburgh.” That wasn’t the only highlight of a nice rookie campaign that saw him get a .903 save percentage and a 3.02 goals against average while also securing the “must-wins” that closed out the regular season.    

Connor Hutchins: Schneider wasn’t the only one to have a standout freshman campaign. At the close of the regular season, Connor Hutchins was third in the nation in power play goals with 8 (the leader had 10) among his total 12 goals that were accompanied by 15 assists. He ended up 15th in the country for points-per-game by a freshman this season. His 12 goals were the most for a rookie Golden Eagle since the 1996-1997 season – twenty years!

Aidan Verbeke: Junior captain Aidan Verbeke was also third in the nation in power play goals. He led a power play unit that was the eighth-most efficient in all of DIII with a 25.5% success rate. Verbeke had a great 10-13-23 line and led the team in penalty minutes with 42, which shows the hard, physical edge that he brings to the ice. He led off the ice as well, bringing a calming, intellectual and motivational approach to leadership in the locker room and classroom.

Jake Taylor: Senior Jake Taylor led a team in goals that averaged 3.31 per game, an output that put the team in 32nd place out of 78. His 14 goals all came since Thanksgiving and it seemed for a while that he was lighting the lamp every single game. He was exciting on the ice, because it seemed like he was either finding space or making space at will. It was a nice capstone to a collegiate career that saw him bust into SUNYAC with 10 goals as a freshman.

Tim Kielich: After a monster freshman campaign (12-19-31), Tim Kielich did not suffer a sophomore slump. While his goal total dropped to 3, he was still a playmaker, getting 23 helpers on the season and ranking among the national leaders in that category. Two of his goals came in the decisive last weekend of play when they were needed most. He was such a threat to make things happen that SUNYAC coaches voted him into Third Team All-SUNYAC at the close of the season.

There was no sophomore slump for #11

Dylan Shapiro & Zac Sikich: These two juniors are linked together, having come up at the same time and posting similar stats at each stage of the game. How similar? After 3 seasons together both have averaged exactly .53 points per game! Shapiro had 9 goals this year, while Sikich had 10. Both had 2 game winning goals, both had an empty netter. One difference? Sikich had 2 shorthanded goals this year.

Bryan Carville: The sophomore blueliner who had spent his freshman year at Hobart was an excellent defensive player. He had 10 points, which are solid for a defenseman’s defenseman. He led the team in plus/minus with a +5 and he’s looking like someone who could entertain All-SUNYAC honors next year. He can really hang with the deep lines we’ve seen out of Oswego, Geneseo, and Plattsburgh.

Brian Hurlimann: The junior defenseman had a great year, too, behind the blueline, seeing a plus/minus of +3. He also surprised with some firepower, sporting a 4-5-9 line besting his career totals of 2-1-3. He’s a physical player who makes superstar forwards regret entering his territory. Don’t be surprised if he gets All-SUNYAC looks in his senior year.

The last weekend of the season: Going into the last weekend of regular season play, Brockport faced a must-win of two games in order to make the playoffs. They buried Potsdam that Friday before Plattsburgh came to town. Could Brockport beat Plattsburgh twice in one season?? They did, in dramatic fashion, 8-4. It was one of the most exciting weekends of play in memory and it perfectly encapsulated the fun times that were had this season.

Thank you to the Golden Eagles for a great year….we’re already looking forward to 2017-2018!