Call it luck, coincidence, or fate.
Whatever it is, the past couple of seasons have marked a turning point for the ice hockey program at Brockport. Just think of how these various positive things have converged on the Golden Eagles all at once:
• A huge fan base
that creates a true home ice advantage at Tuttle North. Who would have imagined, even just 3 years ago, that the arena would regularly host in excess of 1,000 fans…or the team would be followed across the state by rabid – and boisterous - student fans?
• Todd Sheridan’s
exceptional career. The cancer survivor was given a chance by Coach Dickinson and the College. The results: 11 record broken and countless memories for the fans
• This blog
which connects students, alumni, parents and the DIII community to the team. Few programs can lay claim to such a promotional tool
• Saves for a Cure
came onto the scene, collecting charitable funds from the college and community at large in an effort to bring comfort to the Rochester region’s youngest cancer patients
• Two home playoff games
. The first two in program history…and the first two playoff wins in program history
• And last, but certainly not least, success
. After some time as being a competitive yet rarely victorious team, the Golden Eagles now expect to win games and they are driven to that goal, producing two successive 14-win seasons which have positioned Brockport as team to reckon with not only in the SUNYAC but in all of Division III hockey.
It’s that new winning tradition, one that’s certain to stay with this high-character team for the long haul with its excellent leadership (on-ice, in the locker room and in the classroom ) and this past off-season’s awesome recruiting class, one that sets the bar high for future classes.
Despite this, you’re almost guaranteed that the team will be looked at as underdogs once again by SUNYAC coaches and DIII followers. Certainly, none of them expected the first 14 win season nor did they the second one: In both seasons the SUNYAC coaches poll had them pegged to finish 7th in the conference.
The team has shown time and again that they relish that role. It drives them to outperform the rest of the conference and it will do the same again this season, even if the SUNYAC coaches see the light and rank them 3rd or 4th. These guys want to exceed expectations, no matter how high they are.
You can thank the captaincy for that.
Repeating team captain Justin Noble
has been a high-gear player since his first days on the ice at Brockport, playing a great brand of defensive forward against some of the best lines in all of Division III. Relentless in his approach to the game, he fights for the puck at both ends of the ice and is among the best checkers and puck handlers on the team.
His assistant, Ray Tremblay, plays with the same fervor that allowed him to overcome what should have been a career-ending back injury…a real inspiration to his team mates and one of the better personal success stories in DIII. Quick, with good vision for the whole ice sheet, he makes plays happen, as made evident by his 19 assists last season.
The other “A” will be worn by Adam Shoff this season, someone who is a real fan favorite and is beloved by his team mates (and has been everywhere he has played). Strong, reckless with his body and possessed of a dynamo’s energy, his numbers (10 points last season) belie what he brings to the team, whether it’s killing penalties or playing some steady defense from the offensive position. He does the little things that bring the victories and motivate the team to take their energy to his level.
Those gentlemen are who keep the team cohesive, a unit of players that has shown remarkable togetherness and team work the past two seasons.
If Brockport had a weakness last year, it was in the goal-scoring department. The team lit the lamp only 82 times, good for 51st in the nation and an average score of 3.04/game. That output ranked them only 27th among all the Golden Eagles teams of the past.
But, it wasn’t for a lack of some strong performers.Ian Finnerty may have had one of the quietest big seasons in recent memory. His 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists) snuck up on the fans and reporters. That, to me, means he’s a consistent playmaker, one who contributes each and every game, just floating under the radar with his ongoing contributions. With more firepower around him this year, the junior might make a run at 30 points this year or next.
And, then there’s James Cody
With Todd Sheridan now in "retirement", young James might be the face of Brockport hockey. He’s a special talent who scores in bunches (leading the team the past 2 years), excels in the clutch (see what he did against Potsdam in the playoffs the last 2 years), and hits like a son-of-gun (among all SUNYAC forwards, he is the premier checker and open ice hitter). He is the most entertaining player on the team, his electric style of offense and hitting sure to produce a few highlights every game.
The lack of goals was well-addressed by Coach Dickinson. He had some brilliant pick-ups in the recruiting department that include Steve Sachman (15 game winning goals over the last 2 AJHL seasons), Bobby Conner (51 points in 42 games with the Junior Flyers) and Chris Cangro (+34 with the Bobcats last year).
Goals should come early and often for those guys and as the Golden Eagles veterans grow there’s no reason why the team shouldn’t score an extra 18 goals this season.
Brockport’s defensive performance was out of this world last season, allowing 3.11 goals a game, for a total of only 84 over the 27-game season. That set a new scored record for the fewest goals allowed per game, besting the previous season when 90 were let in.
That was without their number one defenseman Gregg Amato
in the home stretch. He missed the last 5 games following an injury in the Geneseo game. He was on pace to best Brockport’s single-season scoring record for defenseman, finishing with 18 points, a great addition to his slick defensive skills which allow him to cover a lot of ice.
His crew is rounded out by the likes of Tyler Davis (yet another high-energy impact player), and Mike Hayward (a playmaking defenseman in the mold of Amato). They are an scary bunch of hard hitters who play intelligently.
They will be joined this year by an excellent recruiting class which includes standouts like Ian Chapman and Matt Deluca among others.
Hockey purists will enjoy watching the defensemen as they are a very-effective and highly-skilled group.Special teams
Goals may not have come easy at full strength last year, but they did with a man advantage. Never a team known for a flashy power play, that’s where the team excelled: With two weeks left in the regular season they had the 9th best PP unit in the country. They finished the season 12th best finding success on 23% of their chances (38 of 165). The penalty kill was just as awesome, ending up 14th best in DIII, killing 85.5% (124 of 145) of their opponent’s man advantages. Helping along those numbers was the fact that the Golden Eagles were the 45th-least-penalized team in DIII, facing only 14.8 minutes in the box per game.Goaltending
With Todd Sheridan having completed his 4-year career as perhaps the best Brockport hockey player ever, and the most respected goaltender in the SUNYAC, goaltending becomes a question mark.
Or does it?
If anything, the netminding is left in capable pads.
For the past 2 seasons, Oliver Wren
has served as back-up and when given the chance to play has done well. Last season he saw action in 5 games (including 3 starts) and he amassed a spectacular .919 saves percentage and a 2.51 goals against average which featured a shutout. If he can match those numbers over the course of an entire season you’re talking about something special. Oliver plays an excitable, constantly-in-motion manner of goaltending that should keep the fans entertained this year.
The team added Joe Reagan over the summer, someone who instantly keeps Brockport’s goaltending unit as the very best unit in the SUNYAC, just as it has been the past few years. An accomplished stopper, he played with the Bobcats the past two seasons and his numbers are real jaw-droppers. Last season he saved .929 of the shots he faced and he posted a sick 2.19 GAA. In the season prior, he was just as efficient with a .931 saves percentage.Predictions
2010-2011 should be just as exciting as the past two seasons, even more so as some of the pick-ups adjust to DIII. Like I said earlier: Winning is the new tradition with the Golden Eagles. What will that equate this season? How about a 15-9-1 record in the regular season.
My predictions have been nearly dead-on the past two seasons. So, watch out, SUNYAC.