Tuesday, October 29, 2013


As I head into my twenty-first season as a fan of the Golden Eagles, I know that my interest in and my optimism for Brockport hockey have not waned. As a matter of fact, both have strengthened over the years. I find myself especially interested and optimistic about what will happen in the 2013-2014 campaign: All of the pieces are in place to have the team make the playoffs after a 3 year absence.

Last year’s 7-16-2 roller coaster was a learning experience for a full stable of young guns (14 freshmen in total), all of whom are a year older and a year wiser and can now capitalize on their abundance of talent.

It all starts between the pipes. If Brockport doesn’t have the best goaltending in the SUNYAC, it certainly has the deepest. 

Jared Lockhurst should challenge more of Todd Sheridan's team records this year

All Jared Lockhurst did during his freshman year was impress. The unflappable goalie bestowed with uncanny positioning and preternatural anticipation (he knows what everyone is doing before they do) was third in the conference in overall save percentage (.919), a number which broke the school record previously held by all-time great Todd Sheridan. The kid was lights-out in conference play, sporting a .922 save percentage and 2.79 goals against average in 11 games.

In the event he is injured, #2 goalie, junior Aaron Green (who could be a legit #1 on most any other team) is no pushover. In 6 SUNYAC affairs he had a .912 and 2.98 line. Overall, he had a .897 and 3.22 line, numbers that were brought down by one rough outing against Nazareth. Take that game out of the equation and Green’s save percentage was nearly .910. Playing an exciting brand of goaltending, Green’s Gumby-like athleticism can confound even the most seasoned teams.

Despite their skills, their success is dependent on the guys in front of them. Defensively, the team lost Mike Heyward (last year’s captain), but this year’s captain is certainly up to the task of leading the blueliners and the team at large. Senior Matt DeLuca is a high-character guy with smooth moves and a wicked slapshot that he’ll occasionally show off when he’s got the green light. Matt plays mistake-free hockey (only 12 penalty minutes last year), something that the team can hang its hats on – last year’s Golden Eagles were the least-penalized in team history.

Matt DeLuca will lead the team into the playoffs

Outside of Matt, Chris Luker and Bobby Chayka saw the most ice time last season and these physical men can certainly turn the tables on some of the big boys on the SUNYAC’s best lines. If Luker can cut back on penalties (44 minutes last year), he has the physical tools and vision to one day become an All-SUNYAC selection. Johnathan Demme is another potential All-Conference pick to keep an eye on: The 6’3” sophomore had just 2 penalty minutes in 20 games and there’s a reason he was on the number one D-line so early last season…he flows nicely to the puck and can match-up well with Oswego’s and Plattsburgh’s big forwards.

Not to sound like a hockey version of John Madden, but a team that prevents goals can only succeed if it scores goals, too. Brockport had a heckuva time doing that last year.

The team managed only 2.52 goals/game in 2012-2013, good for 63rd in all of DIII. I chalk that up to the inexperience of youth – the NCAA is so different than Juniors and it took the supersized freshman class some time to overcome that and learn what works. The talent is there. The history is there (all these kids were productive in Junior hockey). I will guarantee (yes, guarantee) that the team will add at least 1 goal to its average output this season.That could end up being a difference of 6 games when all is said and done.

The biggest surprises of last season were now-sophomores Jesse Facchini and Shane Cavalieri. Facchini had a team-high 19 points last year thanks to 16 assists. He always seemed to be in the thick of things and there’s no reason why this engine behind Brockport’s offense shouldn’t create more goals and score some himself (he had just 3 last year). Don’t be surprised if he puts up a run at 30 points this year..and next…and the year after. His on-ice awareness is that keen. Cavalieri was Johnny-on-the-spot and seemed to get a big goal whenever Brockport needed one. He led the team in lamplighters with 9 and came so close to becoming just the fourth true freshman to achieve double digits in goals scored (something last accomplished by the incomparable James Cody).

Upperclassmen who will lend them a hand are Christian Cangro, Troy Polino, and Brendon Rothfuss. Cangro saw more ice-time last year and it paid off for the cerebral forward, who had a 7-10-17 line. Expect the senior to go out with a bang and break the 25-point mark. Polino is a gym rat who has been quite productive since the start, having 15 points and 16 points in his first 2 seasons. Don't be surprised if he doubles his last year's output in goals scored (which was 4).

Brendon Rothfuss: 15 goals? Bank on it!

The real wildcard in the whole equation is Rothfuss – the 2 sport star made the sacrifice to forgo his lacrosse season so he could approach his final hockey season injury-free. What could that mean? The kid has quick strong wrists, is not afraid to take shots (and they are rarely garbage shots), and he has unparalleled vision, courtesy of his mastery of both sports. He’s my favorite to be the team MVP. He had 6 goals in 16 games last year while battling nagging injuries. Don’t be surprised if he finds the back of the net 15 times this season, a total reached only 3 times this century (Mark Digby, Steve Seedhouse and James Cody). He’s that good when healthy.  

The above core of players will be complimented by a wide array of returning players and another sizable (but talented) freshmen class (you can read about the recruits in the archives of this blog).

Everything coming together at just the right time, and everyone coming together in the right ways, should lead to a fifth-place finish in the SUNYAC. What can really help Brockport in securing a SUNYAC playoff berth is the home-heavy schedule in the semester. Then, who knows what can happen in the playoffs if Lockhurst or Green get really hot.

11 wins in the regular season are a real possibility and 13 are not out of the question if the team can secure a major upset or 2 from the likes of Utica, Hobart, Oswego, or Plattsburgh. I’m that excited about where this team is going.

Fasten your seat belts – this season will be a wild ride!