After welcoming new faces on the staff and on the ice alongside the returning players and coaches, the WCU Men’s Hockey Team looks toward beginning the long journey back to the ACHA Division I Final Four. After making it to the Final Four two seasons ago, the Golden Rams hope to forget their sub-par season last year, in which they finished 16-15-2, and aim their focus to getting back into the playoffs. They hope to go even further than they did in the 2008-09 season.
This season, former assistant coach for the Rams, Shawn Dorsey, took over the head coach position for Mark Gonsalves. While the young Dorsey has some mighty footsteps to follow, his staff, players and himself are confident that he can lead the team right back into a top spot.
Coach Dorsey, who is not into using a season to rebuild, reiterated, “with the talent that we have returning, and the talent that we brought in, we’re confident that we will compete within the league and should be in a position to be successful.”
When asked about his game plan and how his team will play, he said, “I have no secrets about how my team will play. We play a very fast and aggressive style of hockey. In order to do that, I needed more guys with a combination of speed and skill, and that’s what we built this team on.”
The remainder of the returning staff includes 12-year general manager Dominick Bellizzie, and assistant coach Brad Dempsey, who is back for his fourth year. New staff members include Ryan Galles, who will be in charge of breaking down game film, and former WCU hockey player Jeff Shockley, who will primarily be the strength and conditioning coach as well as work with defense and special teams.
After losing seven seniors to graduation last year, the returning players are stepping up to fill their spots. Senior Captain Steve Jones, who finished second in the nation for points as a defensemen, will patrol the backend of the ice with returning juniors and powerful blue liners Bob McInerny, Matt Slobodinsky, and sophomore Jon Reitz.
“We got a new coach and a bunch of new players, just looking for a fresh start to a new era,” Jones said about the upcoming season. “In the past we relied on a few players to win games, but this year we have more depth in the lineup.”
The attack will be driven by assistant captain Steve Mead, who earned 34 points in his freshman year last season to cap off an outstanding first year on the ice. Joining him on the front line are junior forwards Tom Scocozza and Chris Campli. Other returning forwards include seniors Joe Mango (assistant captain) and Chris Baer.
“Expect our team to have a lot of speed and a never quit attitude,” Mango said, who is very confident in himself and the rest of this year’s squad. “Being my last year playing at WCU, and one of the older guys on the team, I look forward to setting a good example for the younger guys, and leading the team to nationals.”
Brian Ruskowski joins classmates McInerny and Scocozza as the junior forwards, and sophomores Tim Margadonna, Brandon Person, and Sean Coll round out the returning offensive lines. Returning sophomore Matt Murnane looks to continue his leadership in goal as he will begin his second season as the primary net minder. Murnane proved he could handle the pressure in goal and earned himself the starting spot. Sophomore Will Parra will serve as second string goaltender as he exhibited solid play in his chances last year.
Along with the strong core of returning players, the Golden Rams welcome many new faces to the ice this year as well. First year players Tim Higgins, Dan Griffiths, Adam Ball, Tyler Moll, J.P. Kuhlman, Tony Cordova, Steve Cordova, Bill Berenato, Karl Palmer and goaltender Matt Petitti look to contribute to the success this year and showcase their skills, helping the team win games.
Ari Nugent, Mike Ahl, Jeff Dugan, Ed Conrads and Glenn Monkman round out the new players for the Golden Rams this year. A lot is expected of the newcomers as they are being stuck right in the action to help mend the wounds that the seniors of last year left behind when they graduated.
As the season nears, the players and coaches all seem to be very happy with the way things are starting out. Head coach Dorsey commended his team on their early efforts by saying, “Most of all, though, I am really happy with the way that my players have competed so far throughout the summer and the first few weeks of the fall. Everyone has been working very hard, both on the ice and in the weight room, and we look like we’re in good shape and ready to compete.”
The 2010-11 season officially gets underway on Friday Oct. 2 as the Rams play Niagara at home at Ice Line arena and begin down the road back to the Final Four and hopefully further.
Kenny Ayres is a first-year student majoring in communications. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.