General Assignments Reporter, Robert Stevens
On Oct. 4, Utica College Women’s Hockey Head Coach Dave Clausen announced that Joshua Graser was hired to be the new full-time assistant coach.
This announcement ends Graser’s time as Assistant Coach and Director of Hockey Operations at Colgate University where he had 40 victories and two ECAC Tournament appearances. For him, the time spent at Colgate was the final piece to the puzzle to step into a bigger role on a team.
“I wanted to get more into the coaching side and I saw all those as stepping stones for me to learn the game,” Graser said. “So that when I really stepped into a full-time coaching role that I was ready. So, it was all just little dominoes that were falling. Then Utica popped up and it was like ‘Okay, I’m ready. I am ready for this opportunity.’”
For Clausen, the process was different in determining who was the right fit for the position due to COVID-19. He checked all the boxes in every step of the process. Whether it was knowing some of the player’s background information, feeling the room or being able to identify and show off his knowledge of the game, Graser felt as if he did it right.
When the puck drops for the first time, a former relationship and dynamic between Graser and Clausen will be on full display. Clausen, the former goalie with the defensive mindset and Graser, the offensive specialist and veteran with film can provide a unique balance that the team will welcome.
The team believes Graser will provide an offensive spark for the Pioneers that ranked seventh out of 10 in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference in goals per game with a 2.19 average last season.
“He’s got a really strong, offensive mind,” Clausen said. “He knows how to create offense. It’s nice to have somebody in here like that. It’s been kind of neat to pick his brain with how things are done. Me being 20 years here, and still more of a goaltender at heart, defense has been a big part of how I’ve approached things. So, it’s kind of a nice balance between the two of us.”
For Graser, he describes his short period of time at Utica so far as tremendous and quick. On his first day as a Pioneer, he was rushed onto the ice to help conduct his first practice. In all of the craziness that was his first day, he still recalls what it was like stepping into the Utica Memorial Auditorium for the first time.
“My first time ever seeing the Aud was also my first time stepping onto the ice,” Graser said. “It’s an unbelievable facility. I think I caught myself just gazing up a little bit at the jumbotron and the new renovations.”
The goals that Graser has set for himself aren’t traditional in terms of coming in and winning a championship. Instead, he has taken a much more humble approach that emphasizes the players that he is coaching.
“The biggest thing is that I want to help these girls,” he said. “I want them to grow both on and off the ice. The biggest thing that I wanted to open up to them so far is that they can come to me for anything. It’s not just the breakout, it’s not just their entry, it’s not just that. Is there something academically? Is there something in life? Come to me, let’s just talk. I’m just trying to build relationships so that I can continue to help them grow going forward off the ice and then we can get to the hockey part.”