Devils ready for 'Game On!'
Sports Information Department – 112 Dods Hall
Phone (716) 673-3100 / Fax (716) 673-3136
CONTACT: Jerry Reilly,
Sports Information Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- The 2009-10 Fredonia State men’s hockey team has a lot to prove.
The Blue Devils are coming off the second-worst season in head coach Jeff Meredith’s 21 previous seasons. The Blue Devils were 6-13-5 against NCAA competition. Only Meredith’s first team – the 1988-89 edition of 4-16-1 – had fewer wins.
Furthermore, last year’s team was 4-8-4 in SUNYAC competition and missed the conference tournament for only the fourth time in program history.
It’s no surprise then that Meredith and his returning players are anxious for a fresh start. So are the 16 newcomers who dot the roster. The Blue Devils open the 2009-10 season this Friday and Saturday with a pair of games at Lebanon Valley in Annville, Pa.
The home opener is Oct. 30 vs. SUNYAC foe Cortland.
“Last year,” Meredith said, “was a humbling experience in not making the playoffs so I think our mission this year is clear.”
"Everyone in the program has been working hard since we got back to school,” junior captain Chris de Bruyn said. “The guys are anxious to hit the ice Friday night.”
A lack of scoring doomed the 2008-09 Blue Devils. They scored two of fewer goals in 16 of their 26 games (including a pair of exhibitions against the U.S. National Under-18 team).
As a result, the efforts of goaltenders Pat Street (Annapolis, Md.) and Kody Van Rentergem (Leduc, Alberta) were wasted. Street, a 2007-08 All SUNYAC honorable mention who’s now a senior, and Van Rentergem, a sophomore, combined to save 91 percent of all shots attempted by opponent shooters.
Conversely, enemy goaltenders stopped the Blue Devils at a 92 percent clip. Fredonia State scored only 61 goals the entire season.
“Both Pat (.914) and Kody (.917) had excellent save percentages,” Meredith said, “but had little to show for their efforts.”
The tandem, plus senior back-up Kyle Yelich (Fredonia, N.Y.), will have some familiar teammates directly in front of them. In addition to de Bruyn (Calgary, Alberta), the returning defensemen are senior Frank Soscia (Richmond Hill, Ont.), junior Steve Rizer (Smithtown, N.Y.), and sophomore Chris LaBella (Warwick, R.I.). The quartet has logged 189 games played as Blue Devils, with Soscia’s 70 appearances leading the group.
Newcomers at the position include four freshmen: Brad Nunn (Stony Brook, N.Y.), Ken Nosky (Cheektowaga, N.Y.), Ian Cosgrove (Rochester, Mich.), and Warren Webster (Grand Rapids, Mich.). All three stand over six feet tall with Nunn topping out at 6’ 5”.
"This team is made up of guys who battle, compete and will give 100 percent effort in everything we do,” said de Bruyn, whose 13 points overall and four goals and five assists in 16 SUNYAC games led all Blue Devil blue-liners.
But for the Blue Devils to succeed in 2009-10, there needs to be more production from the forward lines. Meredith is looking for improvement from last year’s underclassmen. The top five scoring forwards are back. Jordan Oye (Richmond, B.C.) had 17 points last season, including a team-high 12 assists. Bryan Ross (Livonia, Mich.), a sophomore, led the team with nine goals, one more than James Muscatello (Baldwinsville, N.Y.), now a senior. Ross, Muscatello, and junior Alex Morton (Cannington, Ont.) were second in scoring with 15 points each, while senior Jeff Aonso (Toronto, Ont.) matched de Bruyn with 13 points apiece.
Additional veterans who will look to make an impact are junior Dave Ridos (Hamilton, Ont.) and Billy Sanborn (Monroe, N.Y.).
Meredith is also expecting scoring help from the freshmen class. There are a 11 forwards who are new to the mix. They are Mat Hehr (Sherwood Park, Alberta), John O'Connor (Loudonville, N.Y.), Will McLaughlin (Mountain Top, Pa.), Mike Muhs (Rochester, N.Y.), Brett Mueller (Queensbury, N.Y.), Mitch Kulikoski (Calgary, Alberta), Marc Deeley (Rochester, N.Y.), Ben Waldman (Pittsford, N.Y.), Chris Jung (Sandy, Utah), Nick Simson (Lackawanna, N.Y.), and Mike Pao (Fairfax Station, Va.).
“The weakest part of our game was on the offensive side of the puck last year,” Meredith said. “In our recruiting efforts we concentrated on finding forwards who fit the identity we were looking for along with offensive skill. Several of our freshmen will be in the line-up on a nightly basis and will play prominent roles for us this season.”
Muscatello and Aonso are the associate captains and, according to Meredith, “are making it their mission to get the Blue Devils back to the level the program has come to expect.” Both were key players in the Blue Devils’ improbable march to the 2007 SUNYAC title, and both have seen to it that all their teammates work hard at conditioning drills and in the weight room.
Muscatello sees the new season as a chance for redemption.
“As a senior,” he said, “I can’t help but notice the similarities between this year’s team, and the team in 2007 which won the SUNYAC championship. We are a team willing to get down to the meat and potatoes of hockey, the basics. These attributes alone have the recipe for success. Morale and intensity are high, now all we have to do is put the pieces together on the ice to pursue our goal of another SUNYAC championship.”
“We have,” de Bruyn said, “high expectations of ourselves as a team and can’t wait for the season to start.”