Buffalo State was unable to respond on the ice to the NCAA sanctions handed down during the season. The Bengals dropped their last eight games, going 0-fer in the second half of their conference schedule.
“One of the toughest years coaching hockey I’ve ever had,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said.
However, Carriere is looking forward, leaving the past behind.
“It’s a new fresh, exciting perspective,” he said. “To end the year with just 22 guys being able to only make one lineup change was tough. With the NCAA issues, it hurt us a lot. Now, to have new competition in our lineup and knowing we have the full opportunity to make the playoffs is exciting.”
It wasn’t too long ago Buffalo State excited the campus with a home playoff game. Since then, they have hit a number of hurdles. There is a huge influx of new players, as Carriere attempts to remake the team and return them to the postseason.
Empty Lockers: A number of defensemen graduated — Tyler Soehner (team’s fourth leading scorer), Ryan Ramage, Shareef Labreche, and Daniel Carey, along with backup goaltender, Johnathan Sourwine. Up front, Buffalo State losses their second leading scorer, D’Arcy Thomas, as well as Connor King and Mike Luzarraga.
The Core: The key returning player is their leading scorer, Nick Petriello, now a senior.
“A talented player,” Carriere said. “Looking for him to make the transition from being a follower and doing his own thing to taking some of the younger players and leading them along, teaching them some of the things he has learned over his years here. With 17 new guys, we need a lot of leadership.”
Drew Klin, Justin Knee, Jim Durham, and Trevor McKinley also return as forwards. Defensively, expect solid play from Sean Murray, with help from Zach Hale and Daniel Andersson.
Alan Fritch will return between the pipes as a senior, but he will be tested by two new freshmen.
New Gear: Those two new goaltender recruits are Kevin Carr and Nick Gigone. Both will be given a lot of opportunity to be “the guy.”
Defensively, John Corrigan, Anthony Orange, and Jason Cleaver did a good job on their junior teams last year and will be expected to step in and make an impact.
Up front, there are a plethora of new forwards — Mike Zanella, Dave Landsdowne, Taylor McGraw, Shane Aver, Bill Strakosch, and Mike Connolly. It will certainly give Carreire a lot more flexibility in setting his lineup.
Key Question: How quickly all the new players will make an impact and how quickly Carriere settles on a goaltender will ultimately decide whether this year is a rebuilding year or a return to the playoffs for the Bengals.
Mark Your Calendar Game: November 12 vs. Brockport.
This will be the first home game of the year after opening on the road for three games. With all the issues that beset the team last year, it will be nice to see the students come back to support their hockey team, and for the team to do well in front of their fans.