If last year was the initial phase in the Rowan men’s ice hockey’s rebuilding process, then the soon-to-be season will feature the second stage of that program rebuild.
Head coach John Caulfield led the young, retooling team to a second seed in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey North Division last season despite the youth in the locker room, and will be tasked with a similar challenge this year.
“This is part two [of the program’s rebuild],” Caulfield said. “We will have 10 new faces this year. This will be the core group of guys here for the next three to four years.”
Easing the transition for Caulfield and the fresh bodies donning the brown and gold sweaters for the first time will be the few veterans that are now stepping into leadership roles left vacant by graduation.
One of those leaders will be senior goaltender Cody Reilly. The big, athletic goalie from Freehold, NJ will be a key cog in the success of the team.
His flashy glove will be relied upon on the ice. His leadership and familiarity with the program will be used as a learning tool for the younger guys adapting to the collegiate level for the first time.
Reilly was used as a crutch for much of last season, as the Profs frequently found themselves fighting a man down due to penalties. Ironically, this year the youths may be the ones helping Reilly in this department.
Caulfield very matter-of-factly noted that the penalty minute conundrum should not be a reoccurring issue in the 2016-17 season because “we graduated the leading penalty getters.”
Even with graduation helping to keep five skaters on the ice this season, those players who have left had invaluable experience in Caulfield’s up-tempo system. It’s a system that, when clicking, utilizes all four lines at a breakneck pace, a pace that the rookies will have to assimilate to rather quickly.
“Speed is what we strive for,” Caulfield said. “Our blueprint starts there, and it’s become what we’re known for.”
The tempo will begin to be instilled in his novice squad this week, the team’s first time on ice together as a unit, and the first week of work toward achieving the goal for the season.
Caulfield is not a naive coach who is going to weave tales of grandiose goals that are ultimately unattainable. He stays honest instead, and sets realistic yet rewarding goals.
“Playoffs and regionals,” Caulfield said. “The new guys will get thrown into the mix, but think, with last year’s freshmen, now sophomores, having some experience [will help]. We will be in the hunt. Both goaltenders are returning so we have stability there.”
Before the postseason can even be discussed with such a neophyte squad, though, games need to be played to get a feel for the fresh faces.
There is one particular game in which Caulfield is excited to see his young guys perform.
“First game of the year. I’m excited to get rolling,” Caulfield said. “It’s going to be a great year.”
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