“It's going to be a journey to remember.” That's what Geneseo Ice Knights captain senior Carson Schell had to say about the upcoming hockey season, a smile flashing across his face as he pondered the final season of his college career. Looking at the roster, arguably the deepest team Geneseo has put together since 2010, there's a lot to smile about.
After finishing last season with the second-ranked offense in the SUNYAC, head coach Chris Schultz had some important bodies to replace up front. Gone are goal scorer Corbin Rosmarin, playmaker Kaz Iwamoto and Ryan Bulach, all who graduated in spring 2013.
Schultz, SUNYAC Coach of the Year two of the last three seasons, had plenty of size returning, but what he needed to add was speed.
Immediate and substantial contributions from first-year players have been typical of recent Geneseo teams, and this year won't be any different. Division I junior transfer Ryan Stanimir, a point-per-game player at the end of his junior career in the British Columbia Hockey League, will join the Ice Knights after two seasons at Sacred Heart University.
Incoming freshmen Connor Anthoine, who put up 119 points in four seasons in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, and Jack Ceglarski, coming off a 67-point campaign in 44 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, look to see time this year.
While competition will be fierce on offense, the Ice Knights defense is wide open. In the spring the Knights lost Colin de Jersey and Blake O'Connor, each of whom played upwards of 25 minutes a night, and Brandon Angotti, who developed into one of the Ice Knights' best shut-down defenders by the end of last season.
With only junior Jack Caradonna, sophomore Nate Brown and sophomore Matt Hutchinson remaining, the team is guaranteed to see new faces at the blue line on opening night.
Shutdown defenseman first-year Derek Stahl should step in immediately to fill the lockdown roles left behind by O'Connor and Angotti. Stahl was named Defensive Player of the Year in the EJHL last season.
Sophomore Matt Solomon, who transferred to Geneseo along with Stanimir from Sacred Heart, brings a 210-pound frame and a heavy shot to the Geneseo blue line, posting 67 points in 77 games in the EJHL before attending Sacred Heart.
Geneseo's success will hinge primarily on the continued success of goalkeeper junior Bryan Haude, who recorded three shutouts last season as a sophomore to snap a seven-year shutout drought in Geneseo.
Last season's playoff run stemmed from the breakout seasons of several key players. Senior Jonathan Sucese had a coming out party in 2013, pivoting a line with sophomores David Ripple and Ryan Donnelly as one of the team's most consistent players. If kept together to start the season, it's a line that could be one of the conference's best.
Senior Garry Childerhose and sophomore AJ Sgaraglio got their first real opportunities toward the end of last season after recovering from injuries. Childerhose showed the goal-scoring touch he was recruited for and became a regular, while Sgaraglio became a spark plug on the fourth line, who could see a promotion as the season progresses.
With special teams like last season, the Ice Knights are well positioned going into this season - if they stay healthy. Injuries limited key contributors last season, including juniors Tyler Brickler, Zach Martin and Justin Scharfe - all players Geneseo will need big years from. Without them, a disproportionate load of the offense automatically falls to big guns like senior Zachary Vit. In a conference teeming with quality goaltenders, that's not a recipe for success. The Knights can't afford the injury plague that has devastated them for the last two seasons.
If injuries can be avoided, this is a team ready to win now. SUNY Oswego will be strong, as always, but the Lakers graduated three of the best players in the college's history and five of the conference's top ten scorers. Oswego will retool, but the team is in transition by its standards. SUNY Plattsburgh will be a very similar team, a team that the Knights could skate with last year. This Knights team, on paper, is better.
The time to win is now for Geneseo.
“We know what we have, and we know what we have to do to succeed,” Schell said.
The talent is here, and with an outdoor game scheduled for Dec. 15 at Frontier Field, the spotlight is here too. The campaign for Geneseo's fourth SUNYAC title begins against Morrisville State College, and it begins at 7 p.m. Friday Nov. 1 in the Ira S. Wilson Arena.