Lebanon Valley coach Ted Russell enters his second season at the helm of the Flying Dutchmen this month. Having had an entire year to recruit, he has brought in 18 freshmen in an attempt to turn around the teams fortunes. Combined with last years class of newcomers, there is definitely a youth movement afoot at Lebanon Valley.
Going into the second year as a coach, Im trying to be more prepared this year than last year, said Russell. Were young class-wise, but age-wise were not that young. Eleven kids have maxed out their junior hockey career so they are 21 now. They have a little maturity and pretty good experience.
Upperclassmen are few and far between for the Flying Dutchmen but their leadership is still critical as the team prepares for its opening game against Oswego.
Senior Robert Malloy, who is coming off an injury that shortened last season, and junior Spiros Anastas have been named as captains of the team.
Robert Malloy is a kid on the blue line that I hope will play all 25 games, said Russell. He is very competitive, works extremely hard, and a captain because he leads by example. Spiros Anastas is a vocal, heart-and-soul guy. He has done a great job organizing the different team workouts the last few weeks. Upperclassmen is something we dont have a lot of, but I feel confident with the freshman class assuming a leadership role right away.
Leading the list of freshmen forwards are Nick Schultz and Jeremy Browning who both put up good numbers in junior hockey.
On the blue line, coach Russell is expecting George Nicholes and Brian Dunford to lead a group of five new defenders.
Those are kids that can move east to west pretty good, said Russell. For a defenseman, your lateral movement should be pretty good and theirs is.
Coach Russell plans to carry a large roster this season, 30 players at the start, both to provide depth for the inevitable injuries and also to keep his players motivated via competition to get in the lineup.
The best thing we have going right now that we did not have last year is numbers, said Russell. Everyone will understand that you have to compete in practice in order to earn that spot in the game, and then do the exact same thing in the game. Someone is going to be waiting to take your spot.
The hardest aspect to turn around at a program that has been at the bottom of the pile is attitude. Lebanon Valley had some great years of hockey not all that long ago, but recently negative attitudes seem to insipidly creep back into the program over and over again. If the coaches and players at Lebanon Valley can get a taste of success early in the season, it may give the Flying Dutchmen just the spark they need.
[We] played some teams pretty good during the first semester last year, said Russell. For the first semester, the guys competed well and played for the most part.
This year, I have to be more prepared to make sure that the guys are ready to go for a full 60 minutes. We have numbers this year with guys competing for only a certain number of jobs. Hopefully that competitiveness will stick through first and second semesters. We need to ensure that we continue to move in the right direction and try to eliminate the negative atmosphere that has been here the last two years.