The men’s and women’s ice hockey teams opened up season play in the UCHC conference last month and both have demonstrated superior play throughout the season so far. Each team has already established a 4-0 record in conference play, while the men are currently 5-1 and the women are 4-1 overall.
Men’s Ice Hockey
The men’s ice hockey team opened up their UCHC schedule play against Arcadia University, Lebanon Valley College, Chatham University and Stevenson University. Over the course of the team’s four-game winning streak, the Pioneers have outscored their opponents 36-5.
On Nov. 15, the team also came in ranked at #2 in the USCHO national ranking polls, one spot up from the previous two weeks which had the Pioneers at #3.
Holding the #2 spot in a national ranking is an extraordinary accomplishment, especially when the #2 ranking is the highest the men’s team has been ranked in program history.
“We certainly have the talent, we have speed, we got some pretty good depth, it’s just consistency and removing the big mistakes,” head coach Gary Heenan said.
The story of the season so far has been the talent and skill of their defense. However, allowing them to move pucks quickly through the defensive and neutral zone has caused success on the offensive side of the puck. Not only is the team ranked #2 in the country, but they have also been the nation’s highest goal scoring team.
Brandon Osmundson, a junior forward, has contributed much success on the offense since arriving at Utica. Leading the team in points as a freshman, as well as leading the nation in scoring for all rookies. This year as a junior has been no different, as he has contributed six goals and seven assists for a total of 13 points through the Pioneers’ first six games.
Osmundson said the team’s deep roster has been its biggest strength so far this season.
“We are averaging seven goals a game and have the ability to boost that number even more,” Osmundson said. “Out of the eight players averaging over a point per game, seven of them are forwards. Our defensive depth has been shown already as eight out of our nine defensemen have at least recorded a point. Even though they have scored points, one thing that may go unnoticed is their shot-blocking ability. Every game we have at least two or three big blocked shots by our defense that has prohibited a scoring chance.”
Next up for the men’s ice hockey team is the Nazareth Golden Flyers in another conference matchup on Nov. 19. That game will take place at 7 p.m. in Rochester.
Women’s Ice Hockey
The women’s ice hockey team has come out on top against conference opponents Arcadia University and King’s College and are looking to keep the momentum moving forward into the weekend.
During the last few games, the women have been putting on a clinic on both the offensive and defensive side of the puck. After allowing five goals in the first game to Elmira, the Pioneers outscored Arcadia University and King’s College in the next four games 34-0. Coach Dave Clausen has been impressed with the team and is expecting the same throughout the season.
“We’ve been able to outmatch our opponents,” Clausen said. “We have played so much offense and have been possessing the puck so well that our opponents have not had a lot of opportunities to score.”
Having success can give the team a ton of confidence heading into the bulk of the season. Team bonding and making sure everyone is on the same page is key for the Pioneers.
“We have a big team and only four rookies this season, so there is a lot of chemistry on and off the ice already,” Clausen said. “I think a big part of our success so far is that we are supporting one another at all times and really putting our trust in one another.”
Senior forward Georgie Santullo has been putting up phenomenal numbers, including becoming the first player in program history to record a hat trick in 3 consecutive games, while scoring 11 goals and six assists. Sophomore goaltender Angela Hawthorne also has been impressive, not allowing a single goal in over 142 minutes on the ice.
“I think we have been doing a great job at taking what we work on in practice and applying it in game situations,” Santullo said. “Our practices have been extremely competitive and we are pushing each other to be better every single day. This team is full of highly skilled players, but more importantly, we have just been outworking our opponents.”
Much like Osmundson said about the men’s team, the women are seeing point contributions from everyone in uniform.
“There has been a lot of scoring over the last few games and it is coming from every line which goes to show the depth we have,” Santullo said. “The coaches have been able to try out different line combinations over the last few weeks and figure out how to make every line successful.”
The women will be taking on Stevenson University on Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 on the road. The last time these two met, it ended in a 4-4 tie on Feb. 2, 2020.