By almost all standards, last season was an unmitigated disaster for the Lebanon Valley Flying Dutchmen. The team only won two games and tied another all season. Al MacCormack, the only coach they had ever known, was forced out in December. And the team itself was almost wiped out by an administration review in late February.
But a positive outcome from the review and the hiring of former assistant Ted Russell as the new head coach in March has breathed new hope into the program.
â€œThe main thing the coaching staff sees right now is that we are getting support from everyone at the college, that starts most importantly with the president,â€ said Russell. â€œHe has had a big hand in such simple things as designing new home and away jerseys. We are getting ourselves in the community a lot more, and are getting support from the college, the community and from those who havenâ€™t supported the program before.â€
Perhaps the most important ingredient to turning around the fortunes of Lebanon Valley is changing the mindset. Hard work, positive attitude, and character will all be necessary for the long road ahead.
â€œIt is a process that will take some time,â€ Russell said. â€œThe people in the hockey world understand that as well. Iâ€™m a big believer in work ethic. Iâ€™m looking for players who can never be outworked. Those components will make a team successful.â€
Russell was hired early enough last spring to be able to firm up recruits initially pursued by former coach Al MacCormack and interim coach Howard Hutton.
â€œThere were a couple of kids that I had a hand in picking,â€ said Russell. â€œThe kids that MacCormack and Hutton recruited still needed to be committed to the school. We got nine good freshmen that as a coaching staff we are very happy with. They are good character kids, and that is what we need for this class and next yearâ€™s class to turn the program in a different direction.â€
Changing the direction of the team, and trying to regain some of the glory the Flying Dutchmen enjoyed in the old ECAC Northeast days, will indeed take time. Perhaps the first sign of that turnaround will be an increased level of competitiveness, both inside and outside the league. Keep a close eye on Lebanon Valley this season for signs of renewed life.
â€œThe ECAC West, that is our biggest challenge,â€ said Russell. â€œThis is a process. We arenâ€™t expecting a lot of great things this year, but we will be competitive. That is something that we will pride ourselves on. That is definitely a step.â€