Last season was supposed to be a season in which the WCU Men’s club hockey team bounced back from a mediocre year. It was supposed to be the season they became a powerhouse in the ESCHL.
Instead, the season was marked by frustration, injuries, and only 12 wins in 34 games.
However, that is all in the past and now the Rams are looking to turn the page and start fresh.
Part of a fresh start means new players. Between summer additions and open tryouts, head coach Shawn Dorsey acquired 10 new players (eight freshman and two transfers).
“We ended up bringing in more guys than we had initially planned, and we had some pleasant surprises during our open tryout camp. Overall, we were really looking to add more depth to our roster,” Dorsey said.
The two transfer students, Matt Sklodowski and Reese LePard, will certainly add some of that depth.
Last season, physical presence was a bit of an issue at times, but at over six feet tall and 190 pounds apiece, Sklodowski and LePard add some much needed size to the roster. Dorsey is also keen on the fact that they both have played in college before.
“Both guys bring an element of size and toughness to our line up, as well as valuable college playing experience, which is huge for a guy to step right in with,” Dorsey said. “Matt is a big, strong forward who plays a well rounded game. Reese is an excellent defenseman who brings a sound defensive game and a solid offensive element to the back end.”
Having a good two-way player like LePard is crucial as well. Dorsey will be able to do more with his lineup if he has guys that can go out there and be effective in any situation such as a power play or penalty kill.
In addition to the two transfers, eight freshmen were recruited to play this year for the Golden Rams.
Three of those freshmen that will have big roles on the offensive end are Jimmy Mckee, Matt O’Brien and Ted Case. Dorsey describes all three of these forwards as “gritty” and “tough,” a theme he seems to be sticking with in the acquisitions he made in the off-season.
Having forwards who are strong and physical is essential to being able to score because it is tough to knock them off the puck. Chris Gentile was one player who proved that last year, going on an offensive tear after joining the team mid-season.
Matt Feeney, the highly touted defender, will have a huge role this year on the back end. Dorsey likes that he can count on Feeney, who is another two-way player, to not only be a presence on defense, but help his team on the attack as well.
“He changes the make -up of our defensive group. He brings offensive talent and he’ll put points up, but he is an absolute force on the back end. He is extremely physical and tough to play against,” Dorsey said.
However, size and physicality was not the only thing that needed strengthening this off-season. The goalie situation needed a bit of tweaking as well.
Randy Japchen and Will Parra had mediocre years last year. That, paired with the injury to Matt Murnane, left the position in a fragile state.
Dorsey tried to fortify the goaltending staff and relieve pressure on Parra and Japchen by bringing in Zach Kizitaff from a prep league in New England. His ability to work well under pressure is what drew Dorsey toward recruiting him.
“He is one of the calmest goalies I’ve ever seen, and he has terrific fundamentals. Between Randy, Zach, and Will Parra, we are extremely confident in our goal- tenders,” Dorsey said.
Goaltending was one of the major problems last year, but three healthy and solid goalies should alleviate a lot of the worry.
Aside from the offseason acquisitions, a number of players are returning to the roster this year.
One of the brightest spots in the 2010-11 season were the offensive performances of Gentile, Chris Doyle, Tom Scocozza and Steve Meade. All four forwards are great skaters and puck handlers, and have the ability to produce some incredible offensive numbers.
In 34 games last year Meade recorded 18 goals and 21 assists. Gentile had eight goals and four assists in just 14 games, Doyle had eight goals and six assists in 14 games, and Scocozza recorded 16 goals and 13 assists in 28 games.
Other returning forwards include Adam Ball, Tim Higgins, Dan Griffiths, Mike Kozza, Tim Margadonna, Karl Palmer, and Brian Ruskowski.
On the defensive end, Jeff Dugan, Rob McInerny, Mike Ahle, and Glenn Monkman will all return and solidify the back end.
Dorsey is pleased with the amount of talent added to the roster this year.
“When we played some of the better teams [last year], depth was our downfall. We feel like we addressed that issue,” Dorsey said.
Only time will tell.
The Rams will open their season with a home and home series against Towson. The first game is scheduled to be played on Sept. 30 at 9:15 p.m. at Ice Line Arena in West Chester. Saturday’s game will be held at Towson beginning at 6 p.m. The full schedule can be found at www.wcuhockey.com
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.