Finishing what they started

Forward Kevin Salvucci chases the puck behind Endicott College’s net in the first game of the season. His goal in the last seconds salvaged a 3-3 tie so Norwich remained undefeated early in the season.

Forward Kevin Salvucci chases the puck behind Endicott College’s net in the first game of the season. His goal in the last seconds salvaged a 3-3 tie so Norwich remained undefeated early in the season. NU Sports photo.

The Norwich University Men’s Ice Hockey Team has unfinished business after last year’s disappointing season. Last season led the team to snap a 17-year-long win streak by failing to finish the regular season on tops of the GNAC standings. After sporting a 17-8-2 overall record (11-5-2 conference record), the team would have had a successful season by the standards of most schools. For Norwich, however, anything less than a perfect season is considered unacceptable.

“We know that we have the potential and the ability to be the best in the nation. Last season we fell short on that goal,” said defenseman Brian Rowland, 23, a senior business management major from Waltham, Mass.

With victories over Southern Maine and a 9-1 whitewashing of Daniel Webster, and a 3-3 draw against Endicott thanks to a goal with 1.6 seconds left in the game, the Cadets are off to a strong start.

To ensure that the players’ heads were in the right place, Mike McShane, head coach for the Cadets, scheduled a leadership seminar with Dr. John Yeager, the director of Center for Character Excellence at Culver Academy (Culver, Indiana). During this seminar, players were split up into groups and were encouraged to share information in order to improve and meet their goals for the season. As a product of the seminar and resulting attitude shift in players, the men’s ice hockey team has embraced a motto for the upcoming 2016-2017 season.

“We all agreed that the motto, “Leave nothing behind,” embraces our mentality as a whole. With 10 seniors on the team this year, we all want to do our absolute best so they can say goodbye to this program on the highest note possible. The seniors have put a huge amount of time and effort into Norwich hockey, and the rest of us want to succeed to see their time and effort pay off,” said forward Kevin Salvucci, 23, a junior health science major from Plymouth, Mass.

The 10 returning seniors cover all positions on the team. Goaltender Ty Reichenbach is coming off a season with over 500 hundred minutes in net; his goal is to improve from last season’s .890 save percentage. “As much as they want a break, almost all of the guys on the team skate a good bit in the offseason. It’s the only way to keep your skills sharp and makes it easier to get back into the swing of things when fall comes around.” said Reichenbach, 22, a senior criminal justice major from Billings, Mt.

Defensively, seniors Brian Rowland and Cody Smith set goals to lead the younger defensive squad to higher standards. “Cody and I saw that we’d have a lot of freshmen coming in on defense. As the only seniors on defense, it’s our job to set up and make sure that the freshmen know the expectations and goals for the season coming in. We have to demonstrate through our work ethic and attitude that we will succeed.” said Rowland.

On offense, of the seven returning seniors, two are captains and one is an alternate captain. The captains, Tyler Piacentini and Austin Surowiec, have their own thoughts on what changes are being made this year to ensure that the Cadets are successful on-ice.

“In order to change the results of last season, we have no choice but to change our attitudes and work ethic. That means less time goofing off, and more time focusing on our well-being as a team. Whether that be working out, putting in work on the ice, or watching film, the road to the national championship is paved in the days, weeks, and months leading up to it,” said Austin Surowiec, 23, a senior accounting major from Louisville, Ky.

“The end of the season last year was obviously not what we were hoping for. The entire team is looking to take it up a notch this year and work out our issues so we can be successful and take back our conference title,” said forward Tyler Piacentini, a senior communications major from Weymouth, Mass.

In addition to returning 10 seniors, the Cadets have also brought in a large freshman class of recruits, including one Division I sophomore transfer, Jake Erickson from the Air Force Academy. With 11 new faces joining the team this season, the competition in practices have been intense while the freshmen battle for a spot on the ice.

“It’s definitely competitive, working hard in practice day-in and day-out. You’ve really got to want to succeed to make the lineup. I think myself and all the freshmen feel the weight of such a successful program resting on our shoulders, and we all want to do the best we can to ensure that the program remains successful during our time here,” said Erickson, who plays defense and is a mechanical engineering major from Stillwater, Minn.

With 21 of the 28 spots on the roster filled by seniors and freshmen, that does not leave much room for the middle classes. Sophomore defensemen David Robertson and Cameron Beecy are the only two returning sophomores out of a seven-strong freshmen class from last season. “It’s tough facing the cuts from last season, we had a lot of guys leave that were good friends. You’ve just got to accept that the coaches have the best interest of the team in mind when they make those kinds of decisions,” said Robertson, a sophomore business major from Boissevain, Manitoba. “Ultimately, I think we’re a stronger team because of it. The freshmen are full of energy and are hungry to succeed.”

Junior goalie Braeden Ostepchuk, a mechanical engineering major from Alberta, Canada and the starting goaltender for the Cadets, is one of only five returning juniors this season.

Ostepchuk recorded 1,149 minutes in net last season, and achieved a .930 save percentage. “I believe that the work ethic this year has really increased,” said Ostepchuk, “the upperclassmen really need to be a positive example for the freshmen in order to demonstrate what it really means to be a hockey player here at Norwich. We have a tradition of excellence, and it’s our job to uphold that tradition.”

From the coaches’ perspective, this is a different season for several reasons. Head Coach Mike McShane is entering his 22nd season at Norwich University. Only 20 wins from 700 career victories, McShane is ambitious for a successful season.

“The quality of players we have, in terms of skill, is really great. Not only that, the guys are really well-rounded, and represent our school well. My goal for this year is to have a winning record, sure, but to also develop these men into quality people who can contribute to society once we graduate. Sure, the 700 wins is nice, but it’s really just a number. What matters are the people who come through the program.” said McShane.

With two assistant coaches returning to the program as well who are former players, Bryce Currier and Alec Thieda, the coaching staff is not lacking for manpower. “It’s good to be back, working for the same program that I was a part of for four years. Coach McShane really has a good plan for this season, and I’m excited to be a part of the team for another good year,” said Currier, a native of Essex, Vt. “Since graduating two years ago, It’s been tough to make the transition from player to coach, but I feel like [Alec] Thieda and I are really getting comfortable in the position and are doing our best to help out.”

With a changed mindset, a good group of freshmen, and an equally large group of returning seniors, the Norwich men’s ice hockey team is looking to leave nothing behind this season. It’s not easy to compete at such a high level of hockey, but after an exciting start to the season, players are hoping the sky’s the limit for the Norwich Cadets.

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