The Neumann Knights were an overtime loss away from winning the ECAC West Championship last season, amassing an impressive 17-5-5 record. Compare that to just three short seasons ago, when the Knights went 4-17-2 and only won two games in the league.
This year Neumann is picked to finish first in the ECAC West coaches poll and No. 7 in the USCHO national poll. What a turnaround for the seven seniors on this yearâ€™s team.
â€œIt is a nice reward for players that have been here the last couple of years,â€ said Neumann coach Phil Roy. â€œThe program went through a lot. [Former head coach] Dennis Williams did a great job of recruiting and changing the culture. They are now collecting on all the efforts put into it.â€
Roy was hired as the Neumann head coach this past July, replacing three year head coach Dennis Williams who left for an assistant coaching position at Division-I Alabama-Huntsville.
Roy inherits a team loaded both offensively and defensively. The Knights return their top 16 scorers, eight defensemen, and standout goaltender Mike Collichio. While there will obviously be changes in the program, Roy is also trying not to mess too much with the formula that has led to so much success for Neumann.
â€œIâ€™m taking over a pretty good team,â€ said Roy. â€œObviously, there will be some changes in philosophy than what the guys were used to in the past, but I think we have tried to accelerate the learning curve to get to know each other as quick as possible.â€
Despite returning the majority of the team, seven underclassmen departed the program. Most important of those, perhaps, was backup goaltender Brent Leonhardt, who was called on four times last season.
Roy joined the Knights too late in the summer to do any meaningful recruiting of his own, but Williams lined up four recruits before departing who have signed on with Neumann.
Two of the new freshmen are Jeff Rodell and Sean Bianchini, both defensemen, who are â€œboth fitting in very well in our system. They are learning very quickly,â€ according to Roy.
Also joining Neumann are forward Joe Dolan and goaltender Colin Davis.
With all of the firepower, rankings, and expectations Neumann brings to the table this season, the Knights find themselves in the new role of favorites instead of underdogs.
â€œWe donâ€™t have the angle of coming out of nowhere,â€ said Roy. â€œWith the polls, people will be ready for us. We need to understand that teams will be jacked up to play us this year.â€
How Neumann adjusts to that new role will go a long way towards determining their success.