Coming off the heels of the most successful season in school history, one might think the Golden Rams’ hockey team would rest on their laurels and enjoy the fruits of their labor. On the contrary, the Rams have been hard at work this off-season in order to replicate their 25-8-1 dream season which included a final nunber seven national ranking, a conference regular season championship and numerous wins over top 10 opponents including Penn State, Iowa State, Delaware and Rhode Island. Coach Mark Gonsalves has the team hard at work in practice, using some unorthodox training methods including alligator crawls, butt scooches and a variety of sprints to ensure the team’s conditioning is at its peak when they open up against Delaware on Homecoming Weekend.
The Rams return a lot of firepower on offense this season. second-year player Jim Gehring returns after shattering the WCU single season goals record with 42 despite missing a few games due to injury. Gehring has an outside shot at scoring 50 goals this season, assuming he stays healthy.
Fourth-year player Eddie Devine will also be back, and is arguably the best playmaker in the conference. He tied the school single season record for most assists in a season with 39 helpers and also set a school record for the best plus/minus ratio with an astounding +31.
Third-year player Robert Bushman is the third member of this dynamic line and he will look to improve upon his excellent 53-point performance from last season. This line can go toe-to-toe with any other line in the country in terms of pure talent.
Third-year player Pat Johnson, a talented Canadian forward with incredible hands, joined the team last season in the second semester, and added 20 points in only 12 games. He figures to tally around 50-60 points this season, and will bring some scoring balance to a team that struggled to find consistent complimentary scoring last season.
Second-year player rookie Mike Longo figures to see plenty of ice time and will be looking to help fill the void of departed senior captain Rob Troxell. Troxell tallied 40 points last season and the team will need someone to step up to fill his spot.
The team lost standout defensemen Bobby Kenworthy and Bobby Jones to graduation. Kenworthy set numerous WCU defensemen scoring records and was named to the All-ECHA team the past three seasons. He was also a two-time All-American and his loss will severely impact the team, especially on the power play. Jones was a steady stay at home defenseman with a rocket for a shot and the team will need to players to step up to take over the multitude of ice time these two saw.
Fourth-year player Chris Orlando will be counted upon to do big things on this team as he will see his ice time increase tremendously. Third-year player Jesse Petrillo is arguably the team’s best defensive defenseman and provides a steady presence on the blue line. Second-year player Jeff Shockley, who saw a ton of ice time for a first year player last season, appears to have added a more physical element to his game and by the end of the season could be one of the ECHA’s most feared open-ice hitters.
Second-year player Corey Hackney returns this season and should be in the conversation for the best goalie in the country, let alone the conference. Hackney saw the bulk of the playing time last season and should expect his workload to increase. He was the runner-up for National Rookie of the Year and also made the ACHA’s Freshman All-American team. Fourth-year player goaltender Luis Perez is also excellent when called upon, and would be able to start at most schools in the country.
This team is capable of being even better than last season. The team will need to find some complimentary scoring to go along with the production that the Gehring-Bushman-Devine trio will give. Johnson and Longo will be sure to light the lamp more than a few times but the team needs scoring from their third and fourth lines, anchored by ace penalty killers Adam Jordan and Kenny Bergeron. This team has an excellent shot at running the table in the conference and should be a top 5-10 team this season. If they can beat non-conference foes Delaware, Liberty and Rhode Island, this is a team capable of making some serious noise in Rochester, home of this year’s National Tournament.