For the first time in 14 years, Elmira finds itself with a new coach at the start of a season. Long time coach Glenn Thomaris resigned in March, and former assistant coach Tim Ceglarski was promoted to the top job. Ceglarski finds himself with a team that many feel underachieved last year, due in part to getting off to an uneven start early in the season.
“Our main objective is to get off to a better start than we did last year,” said Ceglarski. “We started off 0-3 last year, and it is important for us to get out of the block quick which is a difficult task to do with opening at Stevens Point.”
Elmira opens up the season in Wisconsin with a pair of games at perennial NCHA power Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Add those games with contests in November against defending national champ Plattsburgh, St. Norbert, St. Johns, and Oswego, and the Soaring Eagles will have to play extremely well early on to get off to a quick start.
“We are the only team in the country playing six western teams this year,” Ceglarski said. “We’re ahead of most other eastern teams in that department, playing good western opponents.”
Elmira netted a plus/minus of zero in returning veterans as school began this fall. Returning to the team this fall is freshman phenom Lawne Snyder. In just 12 games last year, Snyder contributed seven goals and seven assists from the blue line and was instrumental in the defensive zone coverage.
The Soaring Eagles lost junior forward Kris Carlson (2-6–8) for the season on the first day of classes this fall when Carlson broke his leg.
The Fab Five?
Ceglarski recruited five strong players this year who are expected to contribute from the very first game.
Chris Mann leads the freshman defensemen. “He’s a very smart stay at home defenseman,” said Ceglarski. “One area that we needed to address was our team size.”
With Mann at 6′ 1″, and two other freshmen defenders over the six-foot mark, Elmira will be larger along the blue line this season than in recent memory.
Elmira added some grit and size up front as well. Craig MacDonald and Jarret Konkle were teammates at New Hampton Prep last year.
“Both have a pretty good scoring touch and are all around power forwards that we desperately need up front,” Ceglarski said.
Justin Siebold will also add some toughness to the forward lines. “Justin is a hard nose player with a good set of hands on him and a real smart player,” said Ceglarski.
Jason Cassells is the fifth player whom Ceglarski feels will make a real contribution right out of the gate. “[Cassells is a] very skilled forward who can move the puck very well.”
One of the first things that Ceglarski did when he became head coach was to hire Aaron Saul (EC ’98, 2-time captain) as his assistant. Saul had been an assistant coach at Potsdam the last two seasons, and was its main recruiter during the Bears recent resurgence.
“He’s a benefit to our program in many different ways,” Ceglarski said of Saul. “The professors and administrators knew and respected him both as a student and as a player when he was here. He is a quality role model for our players. He’s well known in the community and is a great asset for us. He’s a great recruiter, which he has proven up at Potsdam.”
Another big change will be seen by Elmira players and visiting teams this season. The Murray Athletic Center was renovated during the summer. New kick plates and heat were installed in the rink. New varsity locker rooms and offices, expanded training room, official’s room and skate sharpening room were also completed.
In addition, a new 5,000 square foot addition was built behind the domes and is the new home of four locker rooms for visiting teams. According to Ceglarski, “It puts the Murray Athletic Center back in the top echelon of athletic facilities.”
Change without Change
Ceglarski will try to instill his own philosophies in to an Elmira team rich in history and success.
“We are going to try to become a team that gives up very few scoring opportunities in our own zone,” said Ceglarski. “We are going to preach defensive zone coverage and playing a strong disciplined game in our own end. I would like to see our team be a fast skating team that incorporates both finesse and some physical play.”
But Ceglarski and Saul will also try to only make small tweaks to a team that is basically sound. “We’ve had a great system in place for many years, and the minor changes that we will be making will probably be seen more in house than by our fans,” said Ceglarski.