After a last-place finish in the MAAC for two consecutive seasons, Bentley needed one thing more than anything else: a fresh start.
And though you can look to the cliche that every team begins the year with a clean slate, the Falcons knew after last season they needed a little more than that.
Thus, the athletic department sought out one of the school’s most prolific scorers, Ryan Soderquist, to lead the club in 2002-03. Soderquist replaced the well-liked but largely unsuccessful Jim McAdam at the conclusion of the ’01-’02 campaign.
Soderquist, an assistant coach under McAdam for two years, knows that it isn’t just the team that needs a fresh start.
“I’ve been associated with the team for six years, but I’ve come in here trying to act like I’ve never been around the team,” said Soderquist, the youngest Division I coach in the country at age 25. “I just want to start fresh.
“The attitudes of the players [towards beginning anew] have been great. The leadership of the seniors has been seen already, even if they haven’t been the best leaders in the past.”
With Soderquist’s appointment came a renewed commitment by Athletic Director Bob DeFelice to make hockey a competitive Division I sport for the university. Soderquist is the first full-time coach the school has had, and is working with an increased budget for scholarships and recruiting. That though, might put extra weight on the young coach’s shoulders to produce some immediate results.
“When I was first named the head coach it was great, and over the summer it was great. Even now it’s great, but day by day as we get closer you can start to feel the pressure building that this is my team,” Soderquist said. “I know that the heat’s going to come down on me.”
Still, though, Soderquist feels he has the right ingredients.
“I’m young and don’t have the experience of my colleagues in the league,” said Soderquist. “But I think we’ve put things together and I feel ready to do it.
“Putting things together” has included recruiting a 12-man freshman class to replace just four graduating seniors. That alone might indicate that no one’s position on the team is safe — Soderquist indicated that cuts will be made to trim down the current 29-man roster.
Soderquist feels that the club he has assembled is deeper than past clubs. He feels that whereas past rosters have included only one or two lines that could score, his ’02-03 team comes to the table with three (three-and-a-half, as he said) such lines.
So what is Soderquist’s goal?
“I feel that if we compete every night and stay focused, teams will leave here saying, ‘We just lost to Bentley — what happened?'”
And if this new-look team shapes out like Soderquist hopes, don’t be surprised to see exactly that happen.