“How to Rebuild a Team in 15 Easy Steps.”
That’s the title of the book that Hobart head coach Mark Taylor is going to write in a couple of years if he is successful at getting the Statesmen to the top of the ECAC West.
Hobart lost fifteen players to graduation from last year’s team, including its top eight scorers and all three goaltenders. The Statesmen return ten players, of which only two are seniors and three are sophomores. “It’s very tough to replace veteranship. That definitely will hurt us,” said Taylor.
Most important for Hobart is to develop a bond between all of the new players and those veterans who are returning. That bond will be key to getting the team through the highs and lows of the long season.
“From my experience at going through this with other teams, the chemistry is a concern. But I think the chemistry we have this year is outstanding,” Taylor said. “Sometimes when you have a change over like this, you can get lucky and have a great chemistry out of it and I think we have that this year. In the off ice training and the way the guys are coming together, they know that as a pack they have to be strong.”
— Hobart head coach Mark Taylor
One Season Does Not a Title Make
Taylor is building for the future, though. He only recruited enough players to field a team this season, and will recruit more next year to try to balance the class sizes some and build some depth.
“When there has been a change, you have to put a couple of classes together before you can compete for the title. But any given year, you never know what is going to happen,” said Taylor.
With this many newcomers, you never know who is going to emerge as a star. So Taylor is hesitant to highlight any player for this preview column. However, he did throw some names around that might make an impact early.
In net, Adam Levelle will be looked to as a go-to guy. Levelle played at Bridgeton Academy last season. Steve Mitecek, who played at Canterbury Prep last season, will join returning sophomore Trevor Gowan to solidify the blue line.
Most interesting about the forwards is not the players themselves, but from where they were recruited. Craig Levey from Toronto, Ontario and RC Schmidt, a transfer from West Point, exemplify a change in recruiting strategy for Hobart. For as long as memory serves, Hobart has recruited almost exclusively from prep schools, mostly in the northeast. Expanding the recruiting areas to north of the border and picking up an odd transfer or two should quickly help to rebuild the Statesman program.
The other big change in Geneva this year is the community rink where Hobart plays. It is the last outdoor rink in varsity college hockey. During the summer, a new varsity room has enclosed one end of the rink (only one side now remains open to the elements), a new home locker room, training room, coach’s office, and ice making equipment will all make a huge improvement in the facilities that the team uses.