Mike Dolman is back to playing competitive hockey, which is something that scads of those locked-out NHLers — Sidney Crosby for starters — wish they could be doing.
Yet it wasn’t always thus for the Morrisville junior and the team’s leading scorer. In fact Dolman can feel some empathy for Sir Sidney et al, having experienced something of a lockout for himself.
About three years worth.
Dolman, who saw scant ice time in an earlier stint with Neumann in what seems like a lifetime ago, has resurfaced a Mustang mainstay — older, wiser, and most importantly, happier.
Even Morrisville’s 0-10-1 start can’t knock the smile off his face.
“The losing record, to me, is really nothing,” said Dolman, a criminal justice major and budding sports energy drink entrepreneur (Do.It.Live). “I’m enjoying every second of being able to play again. The chance that (Morrisville interim coach Kevin Krogol) has given me to get back out there — I am completely enjoying it.”
Dolman, who hails from Hawthorne, N.J., was recruited by both Morrisville and Neumann (as well as D-I Army) after two years at Gunnery Prep. He opted for the Knights, whose suburban Philly location was only two hours from home. Neumann was also fresh off its 2009 NCAA D-III Frozen Four championship, which as it turned out, made the scarcity of playing time for any freshman — Dolman included — a lead pipe cinch.
Understandably, frustration set in, as he dressed for just seven games (and registered one assist).
“He (Knights coach Dominick Dawes) never really gave me a chance,” said Dolman. “No matter how well I did in practice.”
Dolman’s lot didn’t get any better the following year, when he didn’t dress for a single game, and when last season rolled around, just before what would have been his junior year, he left the Knights altogether.
“It ate at me,” said Dolman. “It was definitely the hardest decision I had to make. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I go to church every weekend, and kind of prayed about it. That’s the decision I came to.”
No matter how hard he tried however, Dolman couldn’t stay away from hockey. Indeed, one could say that a providential, if unlikely, hand intervened. At the urging of some friends on Neumann’s club team, Dolman suited up with them and found that he still harbored a passion for the game.
“I was just going to mess around,” he said. “Have some fun, and get back on the ice with a great group of guys. Once I got back on the ice, I got addicted to hockey again. I hadn’t (even) scored a goal in three years (since Gunnery). Even at just the club level, scoring a goal, you can’t trade that feeling.”
Or shake the feeling, as it turned out. When the urge to play varsity pucks became too strong to ignore, Dolman began making inquiries. He found a willing taker in Morrisville’s Brian Grady, who had wanted to land him when he was Gunnery.
The fact that Grady left Morrisville soon after — replaced by popular assistant Krogol — didn’t dampen Dolman’s enthusiasm for his new address.
After all, he was still going to be playing hockey.
“Everything just kind of fell into place right away,” he said. “I never really looked back or had second thoughts about anything.”
Dolman admitted that he felt a little rusty for the first few games of the season, but judging by his production, four goals and eight points, the tarnish has been completely knocked from his blades.
“He’s been great for us,” said Krogol, who utilizes Dolman’s size (6 feet 3 inches, 210 pounds) and skill in all situations. “He’s come here and made the adjustment. You can tell he’s passionate about it.”
Long gone is any lack of confidence that might have built up during what seemed to Dolman to be an eternally long competitive layoff.
“There’s no other way to make things happen out there,” he said. “I had to get back into it. I’m loving every second of it. ”
What Dolman would love even more, of course, is for the Mustangs to begin to enjoy some success. That, he feels, is closer than some would think.
“Slowly, we’re figuring it out,” said Dolman, who scored one goal and had a hand in the game-tying tally in Morrisville’s 3-3 tie at Hamilton Tuesday. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to shock some people real soon.”
NOTES: Dolman will soon get a chance to renew some old acquaintances. The Mustangs will host Neumann on Dec. 7 and 8.
The free flowing pipeline that runs between Trenton, Ont., and Brockport continues to gush hockey talent. The latest member of the OJHL’s Golden Hawks is defenseman Robbie Hall, who will enroll at Brockport next season. Hall, 20, of Schaumberg, Ill., is the third player from Trenton to commit to Brockport for 2013-14. He follows center Ryan Johnson and goalie Andrew Winsor, who opted for the Golden Eagles earlier. Another former Trentonian, freshman forward Chase Nieuwendyk (nephew of Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk), is already skating for Brockport
Speaking of the younger Nieuwendyk, he was among the past week’s SUNYAC honorees (Top Rookie), while Plattsburgh goalie Sam Foley. Foley, a junior, earned his first career win in just his second career start, stopping all 15 shots against (then) No. 11 St. Thomas in the PrimeLink ShootOut consolation tilt.