In the North Country, St. Lawrence will look to rebound from an inconsistent season to try and regain a slice of its former identity.
“The big thing for this team over the last couple of years,” explained Saints coach Joe Marsh, “has been trying to get back into it. It is not done overnight. Often it takes years.”
And Marsh is keenly aware of how each victory on and off the ice — no matter how small — is critically essential.
“Every day is significant,” he continued. “There’s a process you have to be honest to, and our guys know that. I think we’ve seen some improvement in a lot of our guys, and they have a great attitude.”
Last season, as has happened all too often in recent years, injuries beset the Saints early on and it left St. Lawrence with a tough 1-6-3 hole to dig itself out of.
“Our players have been very resilient,” said Marsh, “and hopefully that will show up again and put us in a good position. I think we’ve got the leadership and the character, which has kept off-ice distractions away.”
On the ice, SLU will need to make up for the loss of six seniors, including leading scorer Rich Peverley and blueline quarterback Ryan Glenn.
“We hope to spread out the production that we lost,” said Marsh. “I’d rather have six or seven guys step up a couple of notches than have a couple of guys make drastic steps. It adds to the consistency of your team. We probably have 10 guys on that list.”
In addition to the returning Josh Anderson, T.J. Trevelyan, John Zeiler and Drew Bagnall, Marsh and his staff have added nine rookies to the mix — including four players who redshirted last season: forward Tim LeRoy, defenseman Rick Janco and goaltenders John Hallas and Ryan Thorpe. Forwards Mark Wallman, Charlie Giffin and Jordon Hack, defenseman Paul Wallman and netminder Justin Pesony round out the freshman class.
“It’s hard to tell where our new guys will stand,” Marsh said, “until I get to see them a little bit more. A lot of times you look towards your sophomore class to have a breakthrough year.
“Freshmen might get overwhelmed by jumping up a level in play. So I look to Max Taylor, Bagnall and Kyle Rank, who was a walk-on and made the all-rookie team last year, to really improve their play. All we’re looking for is steady improvement. I wouldn’t say we’re looking for big jumps.”
One player who made such strides last season was goaltender Mike McKenna. His performance down the stretch was one of the better stories to come out of Canton and he will again be counted on, along with teammate Kevin Ackley, to provide the solid goaltending needed to move up the standings.
“Are we ready to break through?” asked Marsh. “I wouldn’t go as far [as] that, but a lot of our players are really ready to step up. There are a lot of guys that are competitive and that brings out the best in everyone.
“I do think we can get better as time goes on. I like our team, its focus and its agenda. It’s a low- maintenance team, and that makes it easy on the coaches.”
Thanks to Alex Clark for his contributions to this article.