Meredith counting on team leaders
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FREDONIA, N.Y. -- The return of All SUNYAC goalkeeper Pat Street (Annapolis, Md.) should keep the Fredonia State Blue Devils in most games during the 2008-09 men's hockey season, which opens Friday at SUNY Cortland.
The leadership of several other returning players may very well the ultimate success of the team in front of Street.
The nominal leaders are three seniors - captain Rick Boyce (Mississauga, Ont.) and assistant captains Colin Sarfeh (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) and Bryan Goudy (Port Huron, Mich.). Two other seniors, forward Matt McKeown (Niagara Falls, Ont.) and defenseman Jeff Sylvester (Windsor, Ont.) have also shown a desire to lead their younger teammates into the season and beyond.
"The biggest thing I can think of right now," head coach Jeff Meredith said this week, "is the leadership and focus that our group has. Boyce, Sarfeh, and Goudy have set a good tone from Day 1. Add in the leadership of McKeown and Sylvester and we feel we have reason to be optimistic."
Street's play is more cause for optimism. The latest in a long line of decorated Blue Devil netminders, Street has emerged as the No. 1 goalkeeper after splitting time the past two seasons. He will be looking to improve upon an 11-3-1 record as a sophomore that resulted in him being chosen All SUNYAC honorable mention. In addition, his two-year totals are a solid 17-11-5 with a 2.88 goals-against average.
"Pat Street is a serious competitor who has incredible focus," Meredith said. "It's that focus and desire to get better that drives him. Combine that with the fact that he has good size, great mobility and is a tireless worker at practice both on and off the ice and you have a guy who is a league-caliber goaltender."
He is the sixth Blue Devil goalkeeper to receive some sort of post-season award since the inception of the program 21 years ago. "We have had," Meredith said, "one All American, four SUNYAC First Team(ers), six SUNYAC Second Team(ers), one SUNYAC Rookie of the Year, two SUNYAC Players of the Year, and one SUNYAC honorable mention. I'm not sure there is a program in college hockey that can boast that success between the pipes."
Behind Street are two newcomers, both freshmen, Kody Van Rentergem (Leduc, Alberta) and Aaron Frohm (Pittsford, N.Y.). Van Rentergem is the more experienced of the two. Coming off a solid 2007-08 season with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior League, Van Rentergem has caught the eye of his coaches with his play during pre-season drills. Meanwhile, Frohm is trying to make the transition to college hockey straight from high school.
Sarfeh and Sylvester, veterans of 81 and 75 collegiate games, respectively, lead the defensive corps. Sarfeh was an All SUNYAC honorable-mention pick after his sophomore season.
They will be joined on the blue line by two battle-tested juniors, Frank Soscia (Richmond Hill, Ont.) and Matt Pfalzer (Getzville, N.Y.), and two sophomores, Steve Rizer (Smithtown, N.Y.) and Chris deBruyn (Calgary, Alberta), both of whom received regular ice time as freshmen. This year's top freshman is Chris LaBella (Warwick, R.I.), who played his junior hockey with the Walpole Express of the Atlantic Junior League.
"The back-end has potential to make plays and move pucks," Meredith said.
Goudy (12 goals), Boyce (10 goals), and McKeown (7 goals) are the top three returning scorers on the forward lines, a group that will look to replace the production of Neal Sheehan, the No. 5 all-time point-producer at Fredonia State with 56 goals and 76 assists. Some of that duty will also fall onto a quartet of juniors, three sophomores, and an influx of four freshmen whom Meredith says come from solid playing backgrounds.
The juniors are Patrick Capella (Syracuse, N.Y.), Andrew Dissanayake (Ajax, Ont.), James Muscatello (Baldwinsville, N.Y.), and Jeff Aonso (Toronto, Ont.). The sophomores are Jordan Oye (Richmond, B.C.), Alex Morton (Cannington, Ont.), and Ian Evans (Clinton, N.Y.). Oye and Morton had 15 and 12 points, respectively, as freshmen.
Meredith has been pleased with the progress shown during drills by freshmen Bryan Ross (Livonia, Mich.), Max Miller (Dillon, Colo.), Bill Sanborn (Monroe, N.Y.), and Brian Becker (Hamburg, N.Y.). All four are expected to get their first taste of collegiate hockey this weekend at the SUNYAC Challenge - 7 p.m. Friday vs. host Cortland, and 2 p.m. Saturday vs. Buffalo State.
"The SUNYAC Challenge," Meredith said, "will be a good opening weekend for us as we get some non-conference games under our belt while at the same time sizing of some of our fellow conference members."
"We open with the host team, Cortland, on Friday. Under Joe Baldorotta last year they made big strides and I expect them to continue on that path. With college hockey, a lot more depends on how hard you compete and how disciplined you are versus how much talent you have. It's all about that 60 minutes alone and not last year or reputations. We have to be ready to go from the start."
An addition to Steele Hall Ice Arena this season is a gallery of photos of all previous teams, of the 20-plus former Blue Devils to have played professionally, and of the six Blue Devil All-Americans. The photos are affixed to the east wall along the upper walkway.