Chris Glionna speaks with tremendous pride and passion when he talks about taking part in the evolution of freshmen, not only as athletes, but as students as well.
That’s a good thing, especially this season, considering he has 15 of them on his roster.
After a season to forget last year, when Suffolk stumbled to a 3-21 mark and a 1-13 finish in the ECAC Northeast, Glionna, a veteran coach who knew a culture change was needed, turned his roster over. Out went a lot of the problems, in came potential solutions.
At that point, all the sports cliché catchphrases could have applied at this Boston school: Plenty of upside. Focusing on potential, moving forward. A long-term vision. Right on down the line. However, something happened along this route to maturation for the Rams. They seem to have skipped a few chapters.
Despite a 7-4 loss on Tuesday at Salve Regina, the Rams are easily the biggest surprise in the league this season. On Saturday, when they take on Wentworth in Charlestown, Mass., they will have a chance to surpass last season’s win total just two weeks into the schedule.
“We have a lot of young kids, kids who want to get better, who want to be coached, and those are very good things,” Glionna said. “With young teams though, you’re not sure what we’re going to get each night, and our inexperience shows at times. There’s definitely a learning curve for this group, every game. But yes, you do have to be happy with the start.”
Suffolk is 3-1 overall, 1-1 in the league, and is averaging four goals a game. Eight different Rams have scored, and junior forward Charlie McGinnis isn’t even one of them. Last season’s leading scorer with 12 goals and 22 points, McGinnis has four assists but no tallies.
That’s not a bad thing when you’re building depth and looking for alternative avenues on offense. McGinnis’ goals will come soon enough. When they do — and if other Rams are rolling at the same time — Suffolk will be even more dangerous.
“Last year, it was pretty simple; we had to rely on Charlie, and if Charlie didn’t score, we didn’t win,” Glionna said. “Now, we have some players around Charlie and you can see it start to grow and develop. There’s some balance there, and it’s our job to make sure that progresses.”
Two freshman forwards — David Lazaro and Mike Cherpak — have three goals each. Sophomore forward Tim Sprague has the same, and 10 Rams have at least two points overall.
In net, you can already see the maturation change in sophomore Brett Roman. He’s been in between the pipes for all four games, and has a 3.25 goals-against average, a year after he posted a 6.27 mark in just nine games.
“With Brett, he was a kid we liked a lot, we recruited him, and he’s transitioned and made a complete turnaround,” Glionna said. “He never really got on track last year, but he’s made a lot of big saves. He shows up every day, and he wants to get better.”
that appears to be a mantra adopted by the entire roster. Glionna, a Suffolk graduate himself, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We take enormous pride in any success we have with players, on and off the ice,” he said. “We want kids who have a great work ethic and who want to be involved.
“A lot of times when we talk to prospective players about what we expect here, sometimes you get a look. Here, we do a lot of community service, we do a lot of things around Suffolk, and we’re proud of that. I tell the kids all the time, you can go out and win every game for the four years you’re here. But when you leave, you have to be a better person. We want you to get out into the workforce, and when someone hires you, we want them to say, ‘Hey, he played at Suffolk, he’s a hockey player. But more importantly, he’s the overall package.’”
Kind of like Glionna. After all, he’s a part-time coach working full-time hours, and an attorney by day, but that doesn’t stand in the way of being a mentor, a teacher, and trying to win some games in between all of that.
So far, so good.