Abin Boris, Sports Editor
The Utica College men’s hockey team was put on pause for a week after the team was put under a COVID-19 protocol that restricted them from preparing the way they normally do.
The Pioneers though, came back last weekend and looked as if the team was skating together all week as Utica was able to rip off back-to-back wins against Nazareth and were able to just recently pull off the victory against Neumann to clinch its fifth regular-season title.
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The captain of the team, Senior Conor Landrigan, helped lead the way with eight points in these last three games helping push the team’s win streak to seven games and close out the season on a high note.
Although it may come as a shock to people, this team, as noted earlier, was on a one-week break where they were not allowed to prepare in the way they would have liked to before these final games of the season. Because of this, it made things much more difficult for the team.
“It was definitely a difficult time to stay prepared,” Landrigan said. “Everybody was doing workouts at home, but it was a great time to watch video and try to learn during the break from NHL and personal videos to try and figure out what we can do to improve things.”
Another storyline that emerges from these final games is the work done by first-year defensemen Jayson Dobay. Dobay, who comes from the USHL, was able to get the first points of his collegiate career in the two-game set against Nazareth.
Dobay, one of the four freshmen that the team’s head coach Gary Heenan recruited, has an incredible skill that helps him find time on powerplay units and top lines. So, for him, It was really good to be able to come away with his first points of the season.
“I feel that it took me a few games to adjust to the style of play and to really get comfortable,” he said. “ It was nice to see some pucks start to go our way against Naz and to be able to contribute on the scoresheet, but we have a great group here and the returners on the team have made it easy for the three other freshmen and myself to feel comfortable and part of the team which has made the transition from junior to college hockey much better.”
The Pioneers will now have to wait as other teams in the division are finishing up the season to see who the team might be paired up against in the UCHC tournament. Until then, Utica will continue to try and improve, stay prepared and stay confident in its ability to continue the team’s season well into the postseason.
“The season and playoffs are so short so there’s really no room for error or stumbling,” Landrigan said. “We need to stay focused and be ready to play.”