After 16-0 year, club hockey team has moved up and faces tougher competition

 

The men’s club ice hockey team is hoping to continue its success from the 2015-2016 undefeated campaign, but it faces tougher competition in a higher league this year.

“Last season we went undefeated and never played a team that challenged us,” said Mike Moschella, a junior criminal justice major, from Melrose, Mass. “The new league and playing better teams will definitely be a challenge but should help us improve. We’re excited for the challenge.”

The Cadets are now a Division II member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), playing in the East Collegiate Hockey Association (ECHA) after leaving the ranks of Division III. They compete with other Division II schools and prep school teams from across the Northeast such as Harvard University, Maine, University of Vermont and West Point in a fairly rigorous schedule that usually includes two weekend games.

“Playing teams like [West Point] and Harvard is completely different than the competition from last season,” said Cody Moore, 19, a sophomore forward and electrical engineering major from Canton, N.Y. “Going undefeated last season was nice but it’s more rewarding playing teams that can challenge us, like the schools in our league.”

The expectations for this year’s team are different than with a tougher schedule. After going 16-0 last season, the team stands at 3-4-1 in early December, according to the league’s website.

“At the least, finishing .500 or better is definitely our main goal this season,” said Ryan Nelson, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Norwood, Mass. “It would be great to finish in the top of our league and make it to the playoffs in our first season as a Division II team,” he said.

The Cadets lost some key members of last year’s club squad and replacing them on the 26-player squad will be important in order for the team to have some success this season. “Our starting goaltender, Ryan Clavette, graduated last year,” said Nelson, “He was a good guy to have on the ice because he was able to make the saves that we needed and was consistent in the net.” The Cadets will be looking for a number of underclassmen to step up and fill the spots that have been left open by the Class of 2016’s departure. Tryouts are competitive, drawing around 45 skaters, but the team only bring around 21 players for each game, Moore said.. 

The on-ice play of the club will need to improve in order to compete in such a tough league. Goals need to be scored at a higher rate and the squad’s defense must maintain an elite level in order to remain competitive. “We definitely need to improve on the power play and penalty kills,” said Moore. The team practices three times a week and has both home and away game, he said.

“Passing and creating goal scoring opportunities will also be at the top of our list,” added Moschella. “Last year, we were able to drive the crease and score at will but now, in a new league, we will have to string together some passes and find the open man in order to score.”
Individually, members of the team would like to develop their skillsets to benefit the team on the ice. “Personally, I’m looked at as a goal scorer and would like to find the back of the net more often this season … scoring on the power play and making the most of my opportunities on the ice will be a main goal of mine this season,” said Nelson.

“I just need to keep grinding in practice and work my way up the depth chart,” said Moschella, “Just doing my job and working well with my linemates will be important to the team and my personal success this season.”

One thing the Cadets expect to carry over from last year is the support of their fans. Students and members of the local community have continued to attend the team’s home games in large numbers this season. “Club hockey games are one of the most fun things we have on campus,” said Spencer Duhamel, a junior English major from Manchester, N.H.

Players say fan support will be one of the main contributors to the Cadets being successful now that they are playing better competition.
“There’s nothing like skating out in Kreitzberg to a packed arena,” said Moschella. “It gets myself and the rest of the team hyped up to go play better than we would without the support of our fans.”

Fans can expect the same experience as in previous seasons past but will also see a higher level of competition. “We will continue to provide a high-level of hockey for the fans,” said Nelson.

The Cadets have some key games this season that could project where they finish within the league. “West Point will be a big game, but also some of the Ivy League schools will be a tough contest,” said Moschella. “We already played Harvard and came away with a victory so if we can do that with the rest of the league we should find our way into the playoffs.”

Many of the players have considerable skills at hockey but for personal and competitive reasons, stick with club hockey.  More explained, “The reason most of us play club is because the varsity coach seldom accepts walk ons, and we chose the school for reasons other than sports. It is not that the time commitment is too much because our time commitment is still quite a lot, and we take our program seriously,” he said.

While an immediate success in Division II is not expected, team members think there is the potential to out-perform their preseason ranking.
“I absolutely think that we can surprise some people and make a run through the playoffs,” said Moore. “This team is very talented. We have guys that can score goals and we play together at a high level.”

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