Louie Educate can pinpoint the change that’s come in his team, what differentiates the Nichols hockey team’s first half of the season from its second half.
In the first half, when Nichols would lose a lead or make a costly mistake, it was the start of a downward slope. The mistakes through the course of a game would snowball and in the end, it most likely meant taking another loss. The Bison were in a lot of those kinds of games prior to the new year — eight losses, in fact.
Now, when Nichols is trailing in game or has just given up an errant goal, the Bison find a different kind of purpose. There’s less of a sense of folding up the tent and going home and more of a sense of staying on task and working through the entire course of a hockey game.
Since January 6, the Bison are 5-3, evidence of how Nichols has come together.
“There were some games in the first half where I don’t think we jelled as much as we have now,” said Educate, a forward who leads the nation’s Division III freshmen in scoring with 20 goals and nine assists. “We had a tough time. We’d outshoot teams and we couldn’t find the back of the net. That got to us. We didn’t know why we were losing, and we made a lot of mistakes.”
After winter break, the Bison held a series of meetings. First the freshmen met, then the sophomores, then the juniors and then the seniors, each as individual groups. Then, the team met as a whole and in the course of the conversation, discovered that there was a divide among the team. Too much isolation.
After those meetings, Educate believes that “everyone is on the same page.” As a result, the Bison entered the week in third place in the ECAC Northeast, and play Thursday at Wentworth and Saturday at home against Becker.
The turning point came January 21 in a 5-3 win over Johnson and Wales.
“It’s been a continuation of how we’ve been playing,” Educate said of the win over the Wildcats. “We’d won a couple games before that, and even the games we’d lost, we’d felt confident about our play. Our team has been consistently improving. That’s going to keep going, but that win definitely helped our confidence.”
Nichols entered the week on a four-game winning streak, and Educate entered the week tied for third in the ECAC Northeast scoring with Johnson and Wales’ Jason Pietrasiak with 29 points.
“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to play with a lot of good players, and right now I’m on a line with two juniors who’ve been successful at the college level,” Educate said. “Zach Kohn’s approaching the 100-point mark, and Danny Greiner, he’s an all-around great player who can dig the puck out of the corners, pass it to Zach or pass it to me.
“And I had the confidence that if I knew how to play the way I knew how to play, I’d do alright. But I didn’t think I’d have this much success this season. Still, I think I can keep it up and contribute to the team.”