After eight seasons at the helm of the Elmira Soaring Eagles, Tim Ceglarski retired last April. The college immediately started a search for a new coach and landed former player and former assistant coach Aaron Saul, who had been the head coach of Potsdam State the past two seasons. Transitions are always a disruptive time, both personally and professionally, but returning to his alma mater was an opportunity Saul couldn’t pass up.
“The transition over the summer was tough to move the entire family, but we got into the new house and a few things done before the school year started,” said Saul. “The transition with Elmira has been pretty easy since I’ve been here before and kind of know a lot of people and what to expect.”
Saul provides a rare ability to compare the two major Division III leagues in New York State: the ECAC West and the SUNYAC.
“I know how strong the ECAC West is, but the SUNYAC is right there as well also,” said Saul. “The coaches in the ECAC West are very good, very polished and have great histories. Guys have been established here.”
Elmira lost five seniors to graduation and sophomore Bill Vesce who transferred to the University of Denver for an academic opportunity, but the corps of the team’s scoring and defense return including five of the team’s six top scorers from last season.
Joining the Soaring Eagles this year is a freshman class with a balanced mix of forwards, defensemen and a goaltender.
“It is an exciting group,” said Saul. “We have two defensemen who I think can step in. We have a goaltender to help us in the back end and hopefully challenge Casey Tuttle. And we have a couple guys up front with size and a couple of guys who can really wheel and handle the puck like the typical Elmira player. We tried to get a little bigger this year just to compete in the ECAC West because it is a league where guys are a little bit bigger and a little more physical.”
Historically, Elmira is one of the few teams that used to hold truly open tryouts, where any student could come to the opening practices and compete for both the varsity and junior varsity teams. Sometimes this resulted in 60 or more players at tryouts. But this year, with the NCAA mandated October 15th starting date, that is a luxury the school can’t afford as the coaching staff has only a few days to prepare the team for its first game on October 23rd.
“With the October 15th start date it is a challenge to get everyone on the same page,” said Saul. “It is going to be different from how it was the last couple of years. We are trying to implement some different systems so that is going to be a tough challenge with only five to six of practice. Living up to the expectations of trying to compete in the West means we are going to have our hands full.”