Jacqui White, Assistant Sports Editor
The 2018-2019 college hockey season has arrived.
After missing out on the 2018 NCAA tournament despite a 21-5-1 record, the men’s hockey team is ready to put last season behind them when they take the ice for their home opener this Friday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m.
Justin Derlago, one of the captains on the team, explained that getting the new freshmen up to speed has been an important task before the season started. Derlago, a senior right wing from Winnipeg, said that are big changes on the team from last year to this year.
This season, the men’s hockey team accepted 11 new freshmen players versus last year where the team only had seven.
Regarding their NCAA tournament snub, Derlago explained that the returning players for the team have not forgotten the feeling.
“Not being selected for the tournament is still in the returning players’ minds,” Derlago said. “I know for sure it is still in the back of the mind of the returning players.”
Derlago also explained that even though the new freshmen players were not on the team during the NCAA tournament selection, they are very aware of what happened because they were committed to the school and team beforehand.
The senior said that his goals for the upcoming season are to remain healthy for the whole year and to have an “overall good season.” His goals that he has for the team overall is to have each player contribute to the team and help teach the new players on the team.
Last year, Derlago played in 25 games and had six goals with 10 assists with 52 shots on goal.
Head coach Gary Heenan echoed Derlago with how much work will be going into helping the 11 new freshmen on the team. Heenan explained that after last year nine players graduated, which meant UC lost nearly a third of their men’s ice hockey team.
“The challenge is getting 11 new faces acclimated to college hockey within a very difficult first quarter of games this season,” Heenan explained.
Heenan also said that due to all the new players on the team, practice requires a little more teaching and a lot more video work compared to other years.
Even though they failed to be picked for the NCAA tournament, the head coach said that there was still some good news that came out of it.
“We are very happy to have been granted an automatic bid in our league so a lot to play for this year,” Heenan said. “It should be another good year of Utica College hockey.
New assistant head coach Nicholas Therrian explained how they were working with the freshmen to teach them how to play hockey at the college level.
“The first couple of weeks of preparation are similar each season,” Therrian said. “We immediately begin up-tempo practices, inputting our systems and look for chemistry among our players.”
Therrian also said that the first week is important for the coaching staff for setting standards for on-ice and off-ice behavior for the player.
“Our culture here has always been strong, and the first week of practice is a great time for that culture to be set,” Therrian said.
Therrian explained that, overall, the coaches’ goal for the team is to be a well-prepared, hard-working team each day.