In the seconds following the Ice Knights’ elimination on Feb. 25 against SUNY Brockport, there was a sense of respect. Above any jeering or misgivings there might have been at the early tournament exit, the crowd thundered, “Thank you, seniors.”
Watching players salute fans on their way to the locker room, I found that there was something valuable in the anticlimactic first-round loss––it gave fans a chance to show off a bit. After all, the Ice Knights fans have provided the sort of unconditional support that has made Geneseo such a favorable destination for incoming hockey talent—students here are considered to be some of the best fans in the nation.
Graduating senior forward Zach Martin explained that this came into focus over the past few years. “It feels great,” he said. “Over my four years here, the program was put on the map. Now it’s one of the best programs in the nation [for incoming college-age players].”
In his final season, Martin found himself a key part of a strong group of senior leaders, headlined on ice by forward Tyler Brickler, goalie Nick Horrigan and defender Jack Caradonna. Coming off of a first-place SUNYAC regular season finish in 2013-14, leadership was key to the Ice Knights’ continued success. According to Martin, former All-American Zachary Vit ’14 and Carson Schell ’14 “taught [the players] to learn from each other.”
Back on ice, the offense was oftentimes sputtering. Still, the team fought tenaciously to keep themselves in every game. Goaltending was what truly saved the Ice Knights’ fortunes this season—Horrigan’s .936 save percentage and 1.92 goals against average set single-season records for Geneseo.
A constructive dynamic was important in a year where expectations were high, but the results weren’t always there. On their way to a solid 9-6-1 SUNYAC record—12-10-4 overall—and a third seed in the SUNYAC Tournament, the Ice Knights set a good example for next year’s crop of seniors.
“How we felt [this year] as a team involved dealing with keeping those challenging emotions in check,” Martin said. Even though the team might not have always been singularly happy, people were left with a working chemistry that lead to success. It will be interesting to see how these lessons will carry on into next fall, where more might be expected of forwards like sophomore Stephen Collins and sophomore goaltenders Matt Leon and Bradley Hawayek.
As for the next step in his journey, Martin expressed his confidence but remains realistic. “I’m going to get a job,” he said. “But I’ll never stop playing hockey.”
As if there was any question.