A Change At The Helm
In Potsdam’s 24 years as a varsity hockey program, the Bears have had only two coaches.
John Horan led the team from club to varsity to playoff status while earning three SUNYAC Coach of the Year awards. Then, he stepped down from coaching (but remained employed by the school), and Ed Seney took over. Seney led the Bears to their first and only SUNYAC title and NCAA playoff berth in 1996, building the team into an annual contender, and also earning three Coach of the Year awards.
Now, Potsdam has a third coach. Seney took the job as head coach at St. Anselm’s, leaving a vacancy at a school not used to looking for head coaches. To make it harder, Seney left late, just before classes were to begin, thus leaving the options limited for Potsdam.
Potsdam decided to reach out to someone familiar with the area — Glenn Thomaris. Thomaris is a Potsdam native, played hockey at Clarkson, started coaching at the assistant level at his alma mater as well as Potsdam (under Horan), then moved up as a head coach at Elmira, where he had great success before leaving that position a couple of years ago.
Learning The Team
So, what does a coach do when he inherits a team at the last minute without playing a part in recruiting a single player?
“I’m looking at the team from a talent level,” Thomaris said, “and playing the game on what he have.”
The first player that the new coach should notice is Ryan Venturelli, who enters his third year between the pipes. Venturelli will be right in the thick of any argument over who is the top goalie in SUNYAC. He will need to improve on his consistency, a weakness in the first two years, and learn not to wander out of the net too often.
Otherwise, Venturelli has all the tools for a top netminder — a quick glove hand, willingness to challenge the shooters, know-how to cut down the angles, and ability to make the big save to keep his team in the game.
In front of Venturelli will once again be a strong defensive corps, led by senior captain Dave Weagle. Other seniors bringing experience to that role include Jim Quilty and John Bernfell. Mike Smitko and Jason Brothers should contribute, and freshman Mike Taylor is expected to impress.
Last season, the weakness for Potsdam was offense. The Bears were a young team: nearly half were freshmen, with only three seniors on the squad. Typically, this affects defense, but in 2001-02, Potsdam lost nine one-goal games, mainly because they didn’t have that go-to sniper. In fact, a defenseman, Weagle, was their third-leading scorer.
Their top guns are returning — captain Anthony Greer and speedy Chris Lee. Mike Snow, Brett Barrer, and Scott Craig will need to up their production to help spread the scoring around. Thomaris is hoping for good things from Chris Brussa-Toi and Eric Peter-Kaiser.
So, is Thomaris worried? “We’re solid in the three key areas of the game: good goaltending, better than average defense, and we’re in pretty good shape with four good centers.”
What about the power play, which was miserable last year?
“We’re a year older, a year smarter,” Thomaris explains. “We need to move it around, and hit the net, so we can get those second and third chances.”
“This is a tough conference,” Thomaris says. “There are good skilled teams and good bangers.”
Outside of the SUNYAC, Potsdam doesn’t have it all that easy either. The Bears once again participate in arguably the toughest Division III tournament in the country — the Great Northern Shootout — where they play Plattsburgh in the first round and either Middlebury or Norwich the next day. They have another scheduled game against Middlebury and contests against tough ECAC West foes RIT, Elmira, Manhattanville, Utica, and Hobart twice.
The games that matter most are the conference matchups, since the best way to get into the NCAAs is through an automatic bid. Of course, this means being able to get by Plattsburgh, but first Thomaris is concerned about simply getting to know his new team.
“They’re learning about me. I’m learning about them,” says the third coach in Potsdam history.