Lost A Lot
Last year was a successful one for first-year coach Brian Hills. His Geneseo Ice Knights worked out early-season kinks, then went 11-7-2 for the rest of the year, finished tied for third, defeated Potsdam in the first round in a thrilling mini-game, and stretched Plattsburgh to a mini-game before losing.
With that sort of momentum, 2002-03 should be a breakout season, right? Well, not exactly.
The problem is, Geneseo lost ten players, mostly forwards, including their top three scorers. Many will be hard to replace.
Hills plans on sticking to the basics. “We’ll get there by working hard, playing solid defense, and with strong goaltending. Take it one step at a time.”
If The Crown Fits…
With Niklas Sundberg gone from Plattsburgh, sophomore Brett Walker may be the one to assume the throne of top goaltender in SUNYAC. There was a lot of talk amongst fans over the well-publicized incidents concerning Walker and his tendency to slug it out with anyone charging the net.
That is all in the past, according to Hills. “It was a learning process. There was no problem after the first two incidents. He’s a smart kid, and one of the team leaders. He understands what it is all about now.”
That understanding led Walker to be named SUNYAC Co-Rookie of the Year while posting a 3.19 GAA and .906 save percentage. If Walker performs, Geneseo can beat anybody at anytime.
He will have familiar help as the four top defensemen return: captain Paul Weismann who transferred in from Bowling Green last year, Jon Schnepf, Andy Ford, and Ryan Collins.
All Is Not Lost
Despite all the forwards who graduated, Hills is confident of his incoming class, “We’ve improved over last year.”
For starters, Geneseo grabbed another Division I transfer, Jay Kuczmanski, from Cornell. Two freshmen to keep an eye on will be Kris Heeres and Michael Bond.
The Ice Knights do have some solid scorers returning such as assistant captain Andy Rice, Jon Campbell, Brian Avery, and Derek Powell.
Besides the conference schedule, Geneseo faces off against the entire ECAC West, sometimes twice for some teams, as well as a matchup with Lebanon Valley.
In all, Geneseo’s season is a tossup. It could go either way. If Hills can replace the scoring power he lost and Walker continues to live up to his billing, then the Ice Knights will be a team to be reckoned with. If not, then they could once again find themselves struggling for a playoff spot.
Either way, the team is ready. “We’re looking forward to this season,” Hills said.