In his 14th season at Fredonia, coach Jeff Meredith is still having fun.
“I’m really enjoying working with this bunch of guys. So I’m having a lot of fun and they’re having a lot of fun at practice every day,” said Meredith.
A roster which includes 13 freshmen is making up for inexperience with ability.
“I think we have more skill than we’ve had in the past four years. I guess the question is will we be a better hockey team, initially, because of that skill. I think we have the potential to, but [we need to] pull it all together.”
Fredonia is backstopped by last season’s SUNYAC goaltender of the year, Will Hamele. The junior had a stellar .941 save percentage and a 1.90 GAA in conference play last season.
Returning Hamele in goal, along with “some discipline and hard work in our own zone, will keep our goals against down in the same neighborhood,” said Meredith.
The Blue Devils have shown the ability to play a defensive-minded game when necessary. On the road, despite losing, they held RIT to four goals and Plattsburgh to three. Visiting Fredonia also blanked Oswego.
Meredith looks for improvement on the scoreboard; last season, no Blue Devil averaged over one point a game.
“I think we have the ability to finish plays now with some of our older guys and some of our younger guys that we haven’t had in the past, which hopefully will make a difference in our goals scored,” said Meredith.
One Blue Devil who has stepped up already is junior forward Christian Fletcher. The team’s second-leading scorer last year already has four goals in the team’s four games.
“He’s had a great start so far,” Meredith enthused. “That’s been a bit of a nice surprise, because honestly, when you look at it, he only had 19 points on the year last year, and I think he’s got six already. That’s great to see when one of your older guys gets off to a good start. It just makes things easier. Things fall into place.”
Senior forward Dave Barnett has five points thus far, as does defenseman Dan Rohanna. Another blueliner, Craig Florkowski, has four points.
Rather than looking at the rest of the league, the Blue Devils are concentrating on improving their own game.
“We’re just kind of focusing on ourselves and focusing ourselves on what we do best,” said Meredith. “Whether it’s the amount of effort, the amount of discipline we need, or getting our systems in order, we focus more on how we play than who we play. We just have to.”
A strong defense and stingy goaltending took the Blue Devils to the playoffs last year. A few more points on the scoreboard from a more skilled team could take them past the first round.