At the start of the 2012-13 season, Westfield State Owls coach Bob Miele preached that his club needed to be consistent with their play on the ice all year long. He knows that his team has been burned too many times by their hot-and-cold streaks, causing the Owls to finish below .500 in back-to-back seasons.
To say this season is no different may come as no surprise.
Even though the Owls started off the year winning six in a row before dropping their last five heading into the break, coach Miele feels that his team is building confidence to get back to their strong play showcased at the beginning of the year. For Miele and his Owls, consistency is key for not only this season, but more seasons to come.
“We got off to a great start; there is no doubt about that,” Miele said. “We played good teams in close games that the outcome could have gone either way. Winning those games right away helped our confidence grow.”
Westfield State arguably got off to one of its best starts in program history by winning six in a row, which included a 3-2 home overtime win over defending MASCAC champions Plymouth State. However, the good fortune and hot start would cooled off, as it had done in the past. The Owls lost five in a row heading into the break. Spirits though, were still up for Miele.
“The break came at a good time; we know we have plenty of hockey left and we have to show up every game,” the fourth-year head coach said. “Consistency is crucial; it needs to be there every day, on- and off-the-ice.”
Coming back from back, the Owls made sure they got their coach’s message and got right to work on the ice, special teams being one of the areas that needed to be retooled.
“Our penalty kill needed to get better, as well as our power play; our play on the man advantage has to get back to where it was,” explained Miele. “We need to make sure that we limit penalties that allow other teams to gain momentum off too.”
Forcing the concept of consistent play, the Owls won their first game back from break in defeating Southern New Hampshire, 5-3. After a tough overtime loss to Plymouth State, Westfield bounced back to knock off Worcester State, 4-3. Two wins in their first three games to open up the second half of their schedule puts the confidence right back in the Owls’ corner, and a large part of that success is credited to sophomore netminder Ian Perrier.
Currently, Perrier is third in the MASCAC in wins (four), second in saves percentage (.932) and fifth in goals against (2.45).
“Ian is doing extremely well for us in net,” said Miele. “He has really excelled to take over that no.1 job. We know he can get it done for us each time he is out there.”
For a conference that all the coaches say that any team can win on any night, the key to being successful is building a program that can contend for a title each season, consistently.
“We are trying to build a winning program at Westfield,” Miele said. “This is a very competitive league, and it all starts with coaching. Coaches [in the MASCAC] have 500 wins or more. Right there speaks volumes of how consistent their respected programs are. Right now, the Owls have to focus on one game at a time and the task in hand. That’s how we will build a program that will be a consistent contender.”
Westfield State has the right coach and tools to build a solid, consistent MASCAC hockey program each season. Once they are done seeking that consistent play, be sure to count the Owls as contenders each year.