The bad news for the Golden Griffins last season was that they won only nine games and lost in the play-in game in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs. The good news is that the freshman-dominated lineup played a lot of minutes, which will only make them better coming into this season.
Coach Dave Smith is continuing his emphasis on youth, bringing in 10 freshmen this season. And when I say “youth,” I really mean it. Two of his freshmen are 17, a rarity in this league.
“Vince Scarsella and Cory Conacher are special kids,” Smith said. “They’re very young. They’re 5-foot-7. But they have what we were looking for in all of our freshmen. All 10 had to have three things: speed, skill, and toughness. We didn’t care about age or size. We wanted players with those characteristics and I think we have an impressive group.”
The super sophomore class includes Josh Heidinger (34 points), an all-league rookie last season, Jason Weeks (26 points), defenseman Carl Hudson (26 points) and goaltender Andrew Loewen (9.12 save percentage). Smith says senior Dave Kasch is also expected to make major contributions.
Loewen is projected to be the starter, but Smith says senior Bryce Luker will challenge. “He came in this year in terrific shape and ready to play,” he said.
Five of Smith’s players hail from the Buffalo area, and he says there’s a reason for that.
“I really like the character of the Western New York player,” he said. “They have what we’re looking for — competitiveness and toughness with the skills to back it up.”
Smith will find out right away how his young squad performs under pressure when they open the season at St. Cloud State, followed by a trip to the Maverick Stampede tournament, hosted by Nebraska-Omaha.
“Those games will help us get ready for our league games, which will be tougher than ever,” said Smith, “Our league continues to get better and better.”