It seems like every preseason RIT fans are talking about losing an All-American to graduation. Jamie Morris, Pat Staerker, Steve Toll.
A look at the ’02-’03 preseason shows nothing different, as RIT tries to find a way to replace three-time first-team All-American and 2002 AHCA College Division Player of the Year Jerry Galway.
“Obviously Galway is a big loss,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We’re hoping for some strength in numbers. We’ll take a look at that and see where we stand. To replace one player, I don’t think you can ever replace just one guy. And it may not be freshmen. I think internally it is who is going to step up from the other classes as well.”
Galway was one of the best two-way defensemen ever at RIT. Quarterbacking the power play is perhaps where his loss will be felt the most.
“The two Ryans [Franke and Fairbarn] are where we will look to fill in that role,” said Wilson. “Franke’s strength is still in his offense. He may be as gifted offensively as Jerry was, but Galway was a better all-around guy.”
New Kids on the Block
There is a youth movement afoot at RIT. Nine freshmen will be joining the team this year, the biggest class that Wilson has recruited as he enters his fourth year as coach.
The defensive freshmen are the ones everyone will be looking at early in the season. Marc Hyman, who scored 33 points in 45 games for Thornhill, leads the group. Unfortunately, Hyman suffered a broken wrist, which set back his work in camp. He is back on the ice now and catching up fast.
“He’s another key guy power play-wise and has good size,” said Wilson.
J.R. Holmes also joins the Tigers. Holmes played 12 games for Niagara in the 2000-2001 season, and comes to RIT as a sophomore.
Ian Fazzi, a native of San Jose, California, played for Northwood Prep last season. Fazzi has a blistering slapshot from the point and is physical in his own zone.
Up front, the Tigers are looking for the freshmen forwards to add to their already potent offense. Darren Doherty is a small, speedy forward who tallied 83 points in 49 games for Cobourg (OPJHL) last year.
“He is just getting acquainted,” said Wilson. “You see flashes, but nothing really consistent. He’s going to be real good. He’s a lot stronger on his feet than I anticipated. He’s just getting used to the speed of having to play at a higher tempo.”
Craig Hupp, from the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Jr. B team, has also impressed the RIT coaching staff. “He’s kind of come out of nowhere, and is playing real well so far,” said Wilson.
Rounding out the forwards is Brent Macovi, who is out with a rib injury.
RIT’s rock-solid goaltender, Tyler Euverman, is a senior this year, so Wilson has begun to look for someone to step into his shoes next season. Wilson brought in two freshman goaltenders this year so he could put them in some game situations and see how they react. George Eliopioulous and David Wrisley will both try to succeed Euverman.
“I think our goaltending has really jumped up,” said Wilson. “We have great depth. And I think we have a really good future. Tyler is clearly our number-one, but I wanted to bring in some guys to take a look at.”
With so many new recruits, veteran leadership becomes even more important. Senior Sam Hill will wear the captain’s ‘C’ this season, with fellow senior Mike Bournazakis and junior Ryan Fairbarn as assistant captains.
“This year maybe more so than other years, even those without the letters have all been through the battles, so they are very well prepared at leading our team as well,” said Wilson. “I have been very impressed with the initiative our players have taken in [weight]lifting , and things like that, besides what is mandatory for them. We’ve got a long ways to go, on conditioning, and defensively being more structured.”
A Schedule From Heaven
RIT fans are in for a rare treat this season with 16 regular-season home games. The Tigers haven’t had that many on the schedule since the late ’80s.
“I’ve been trying to [get more home games] for years now,” said Wilson. “It is kind of a reward for the fans and the team.”
Also back on the schedule this season are games against longtime SUNYAC rivals Plattsburgh and Potsdam. For various reasons, those teams fell off RIT’s schedule a few years ago. Wilson worked hard with both coaches, and the rivalries will be renewed this year.
“We’re looking forward to the rivalry,” said Wilson. “It’s been long overdue. It only makes sense to play these teams.”
Wilson is also an advocate for the new travel partner system in the ECAC West.
“I think it’s great,” said Wilson. “I think our league is starting to come together. The coaches have worked very hard on it, with the support of the athletic directors.”
One thing missing from the schedule this year is the Chase Rochester Cup Tournament, which pitted the four Rochester-area teams — Brockport, Hobart, Geneseo, and RIT — in a season-opening tournament based on the very successful annual Chase Basketball Tournament. However, since these four teams already play each other regularly in hockey, the tournament seemed a little redundant.
Even though the tournament won’t be played this year, Wilson is entertaining thoughts of resurrecting it in the future, albeit with a little different format.
“I think we would like to change the format a little bit,” said Wilson. “Why are we doing this when we play Hobart several games already? I think it would be better with [say] Geneseo, and then attract two other teams from elsewhere. It is really hard to do your own tournament, because you are limited to who you can play at the time of year that we would like to play that tournament. So, if I were to have another team with me on that, then getting two teams is a little easier than getting three teams.”
Summing It Up
With the largest recruiting class in years, the outlook for the Tigers is a little more muddied than fans are used to. But the potent offense is mostly intact, and an all-star goaltender is still in net, so the Tigers should once again be in the mix at the end of the season.
“I think it is going to be a great year,” said Wilson. “Everyone is touting our league. Somehow people look at our league lightly. I would love to see anyone come in and play us, Elmira, and Manhattanville. Those three teams can match up with anyone in the country. The intensity in our games is that much more than anyone else. We can’t lose in our league, because league gains home ice, and home ice is so important to get to the NCAAs.”