As one of three new coaches to join the NESCAC ranks this season, Trinity’s Matt Greason joined the party late, and is now starting to see the collective buy-in and performance improvement from his Bantams as we approach the end of the first semester. The results are starting to come, but oh what a ride it has been getting to this point.
When former coach Dave Cataruzolo departed Trinity to become director of hockey operations for the Harvard men’s program, former coach John Dunham was inserted on an interim basis while the search was conducted for only the third coach in the program’s history. Greason, who is a Trinity alum, was hired in October and has been catching up ever since.
“It has been a wild ride,” stated Greason. “This isn’t like the USHL, USNDP or a D-I program where you have operations and support personnel dealing with logistics and equipment and scheduling etc. It has been extremely busy since the day I arrived in October in terms of equipment, sticks, practice uniforms, game schedules, and teaching a new system on the ice to a great group of young men. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and now I feel like we are past the organizational stuff and am now focusing on our quality of play on the ice in the Trinity tradition.”
Having played, and coached as an assistant, at his alma mater, Greason comes to Hartford knowing the traditions established by his predecessors, and looks to maintain many of the prior traditions while building his own version of success on the ice.
“Both Coach Dunham and Cat (Cataruzolo) always emphasized the off-ice aspects of campus leadership, maturity and responsibility, which will remain unchanged in my working with these talented student athletes,” Greason said. “The differences will likely be more on the ice, where my overall experience, including the past two years with the USNDP and U-17 and U-18 programs, has definitely had an impact on my preferred style of play.
“Working with great coaches, very detailed and skill-oriented coaches like Ron Rolston and Danton Cole, really has grounded my focus on improving our overall skill levels. We have practices dedicated to continuous improvement on fundamental hockey skills, in addition to our more routine tactical and conditioning workout activities. I think it helps our team improve the level of overall skill, as well as keep practices fresh and uptempo. Right now, I think we are still getting the collective buy-in on the system, but we are progressing in a positive direction, and it is nice to see things coming together.”
Last weekend, the Bantams split games with Hamilton and Amherst while surrendering just two goals in the two games. The strong defensive game has Trinity’s new bench boss happy, but he still sees the overall picture and the need for more scoring and the players getting to positions to take advantage of second- and third-chance opportunities.
“I think any coach, at any level, would be thrilled giving up just two goals in two games on the weekend,” said Greason. “I think our progress overall in the detail and focus on our team defense has taken root, and we are seeing it get better each and every time out. We focus on a simple four-word motto: “Hard, Fast, Physical and Disciplined.” That is how we approach the game, and it is definitely coming together defensively, as we see the players now understanding the impact of getting to certain places on the ice in certain situations, and the likelihood that they will be around or battle for the puck.
“We certainly were pleased overall with our defense and goaltending last weekend against Hamilton in our win and Amherst in a 2-1 loss. Offensively, we are getting shots but we aren’t getting to the places where we need to be for the all-important second and third chances that you need to take advantage of to be successful. Goalies today are well-coached, and the positioning and pads don’t give you much to shoot at with the initial shots, so you need your players to go to the net, create traffic, screens, tips and rebound opportunities. We are still working on getting that part of the offense going, and I am sure we will be fine, as this is a great group of kids to work with.”
If it sounds like Matt Greason has come home, in a lot of ways he has. His roots in the NESCAC Conference run deep, back to his childhood, where he grew up in Maine as a devoted fan of Bowdoin College and coach Terry Meagher.
“My grandfather was the president of Bowdoin College from 1980-1990,” said Greason. “I have followed hockey up there since I was four years old, and spent a lot of time in the old arena there growing up. I met Coach Meagher as a kid with hockey camps and other on-campus activities, so I feel like I grew up in the NESCAC hockey world. Of course, I applied and was accepted to Bowdoin, but when I first stepped onto the Trinity campus on a visit, I knew that was where I wanted to be. It was a great experience to be a student and player here. It was a great experience to be an assistant coach here prior to working with the USNDP, and now I am thrilled to be the head coach at Trinity, continuing the tradition of success that was built by Coach Dunham and Coach Cataruzolo.”
As one of three new coaches in the conference this season, Greason has a lot of respect for his peer group, and has been pleased with the support he has received from coaches he has interacted and played against to date. The coaching fraternity is more often than not a collegial one, and the group at NESCAC has embraced the newcomers as part of the family.
“Rob Haberbusch (Hamilton) and I know each other from the recruiting trail and a number of hockey camp interactions over the years, so it was fun reconnecting with Rob last week when we played Hamilton. Going back to even when I was a player, Jack Arena at Amherst has always been a role model for me as a coach, so it was a real pleasure to spend some time with him last weekend and now have that relationship grow in my new capacity coaching in the league. I really haven’t spent time with the other coaches yet, since we haven’t played their teams yet, but I am looking forward to reconnecting with guys like Jim Ward and Chris Potter, as well as the coaches whom I have not had the fortune of interacting a lot with in my hockey path.”
This Friday night, the Bantams faceoff in a nonconference game with Manhattanville on the road. Like any other game where his team pulls on the Trinity sweater, Greason is looking for his team to give their best effort and represent the colors well.
“We don’t treat any opponent differently,” stated Greason. “Whether it’s a league game or nonconference game, we are going to put our best lineup out on the ice and go after it hard, fast, physical and disciplined. We have been a successful program, and want to represent Trinity and NESCAC well wherever and whomever we play against. I think Manhattanville will be a good test for our guys. I saw they tied with Williams, 1-1, and the Williams goalie stood on his head, so we know we have a challenge coming up at the end of the week. Again, it is a chance to build on the collective experience and build confidence in our style of play. The kids have been great to work with, and I am really looking forward to an exciting game Friday and great second half after the holiday break.”
If anything, Greason is disappointed the first half is coming to a close so quickly after the mid-November start, especially when he is seeing more tangible signs that his team is embracing the system of play and having more success in their results.
“We are starting to see things coming together, so stopping for a couple of weeks is not the best timing, but a reality of college hockey. We will be coming back on December 27th to start getting ready for the second half of the season, so hopefully we won’t lose too much over finals and the break for the holidays.”
Greason and his Bantams return from the break with two nonconference home games, against Nichols College and Lake Forest on New Year’s Eve and January 2, respectively. The following weekend signifies the return to conference play, and hopefully a move up the standings from their current position, currently tied for seventh.