Niagara Men's Hockey: The sky is the limit
As the fall semester is now under way, the Niagara Men's Hockey team is anticipating the start of its second season of competitive hockey in the Atlantic Hockey Association.
The team has had a long summer of training and we are anxious to start our season. We are all working hard to prepare for the upcoming games, stated junior forward Giancarlo Iuorio.
The Purple Eagles welcome nine new recruits to Monteagle Ridge this year. Head coach Dave Burkholder expects big things from the newcomers in the upcoming season.
We have a really good mix, he said. A number of the freshmen are from the USHL (United States Hockey League), which is a league that usually makes the jump from junior hockey to Division 1 college hockey seamless. We're hoping that transition is the same across the board for our freshman class this year. We just have so much depth at every position, and I'm really excited about the group that is here.
Though the team did lose two of last season's powerhouse forwards, Paul Zanette and Bryan Haczyk, the Purple Eagles have a very positive outlook toward this season. Players believe they have what it takes to win the AHA conference title.
Unfortunately, we lost some key seniors, but with the returning talent we have and some key new recruits, we definitely have what it takes to win. We have a lot more skill and speed, and I'm excited to see us excel this year, remarked junior defenseman Dan Weiss.
When asked what is most critical to securing a winning season, Iuorio stated, Our team needs to trust and believe in each other. We are very skilled, but we have to truly gel as a team in order to be successful.
Burkholder also anticipates the offensive line of Patrick Divjak, Ryan Rashid and Scott Arnold to be a huge intimidation to opposing teams. They were an all-freshman line last year and really produced for us. Even though they are just sophomores, their experience should make them a huge threat to our competition.
Coach Burkholder reflected on last season, and pointed out what he feels the Purple Eagles' biggest hurdle will be this season.
We need to stay healthy, he said. We were devastated in the second semester last year with injuries, and I think that affected how we played down the stretch. If we can get through our non-conference schedule, healthy, to start the year, I think it should allow us to have a great start in Atlantic Hockey.
As a prelude to the 2011-12 season, the Purple Eagles have an exhibition game vs. Queens University at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1 at Dwyer Arena. The team will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to kick off its regular season against nationally ranked Michigan on Oct. 4. For its first home game of the regular season, the Purple Eagles will host the Union Dutchmen on Oct. 21 at 7:05 p.m. at Dwyer Arena.
The presence of fans at the home games is critical to creating a winning atmosphere.
It's everything. When we get the N-Zone and the student body out, it's hard on our opponents. If you are playing in front of a packed house with school spirit, it makes your team at home. It's a huge home ice advantage, Burkholder said.
The presence of fans is crucial to creating a good atmosphere at our games, Iuorio added. That atmosphere then motivates and energizes us as a team.
Whether you are a devoted hockey fan or you have never once attended a game, this season of Purple Eagles hockey will be one you will not want to miss. The talent of the team, coupled with its passion and drive, will make this season one you will not forget. The sky is the limit, Weiss said.
The sky is the limit.