The Elmira Soaring Eagles have had all summer to dwell on the old clichÃ© â€œYouâ€™re only as good as your last game.â€
Elmira was up 2-0 just five minutes into its NCAA semi-final game in Lake Placid last March, only to watch as Plattsburgh skated circles around them as the Cardinals eventually won 6-3.
â€œWhen we hit the ice against Plattsburgh, they were a much better skating team than us,â€ said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. â€œWe lacked some depth at the skilled forward position. I think weâ€™ve addressed that and are a faster team now. We have some more depth up front.â€
Increasing team speed was obviously a goal this off season, but Elmira also had to replace a bunch of skilled veterans. The Soaring Eagles lost a group of seniors that provided outstanding leadership to the team, but they also will miss the contributions of Nicolas Dumoulin who graduated a year early after leading Elmiraâ€™s defense for the last three years.
â€œIn the sense that we had six seniors that contributed, it is a little bit younger of a team,â€ said Ceglarski. â€œI think we addressed some areas that needed to be addressed based on our last game against Plattsburgh.â€
Leading the freshman class in the skill category is expected to be Darcy Vaillancourt and Rick Acorn. Both averaged just shy of a goal a game last year in juniors.
â€œWeâ€™re looking at those two guys to step in and adds some depth up front,â€ said Ceglarski.
But itâ€™s not just offense that Elmira will be looking for from its freshmen. Play in the neutral zone and in their own defensive end are also key areas.
â€œBrandon Sanders is a sound two way player who will remind folks of Jason Silverthorn (â€™99-â€™03) when he played here,â€ said Ceglarski. â€œHe will be killing penalties, will be on the power play and contribute offensively as well.â€
Amongst the new blueliners, Brock Sawyer has jumped to the top of the heap during the preseason workouts.
â€œHe is a very sound two way defenseman who can contribute offensively and has opened a lot of eyes on our team during the first two weeks,â€ said Celgarski.
Itâ€™s not just the newbies who will be called on this season to make Elmira successful. From junior goaltender Casey Tuttle to sophomore defender Karl Linden through junior forward Rusty Masters, the veteran Soaring Eagles will need to gel with the freshmen early to get out to a quick start.
Elmira faces a very difficult start to the season with home-and-home games against Oswego and an away game to help open Plattsburghâ€™s newly renovated rink.
â€œEvery year, we have the most difficult schedule in the country and this year wonâ€™t be any different,â€ said Ceglarski. â€œMaybe thatâ€™s why down the stretch we play well and get into the national tournament. Combine those games with a ridiculously difficult league schedule, it makes us a better hockey team.
â€œHow well weâ€™re going to be prepared to go to Plattsburgh and the opening of their newly renovated building? I appreciate Bobby Emery bringing the lamb up to the slaughter. Iâ€™m not sure how thatâ€™s going to go, but our guys are anxious to play that game.â€
The Soaring Eagles would like nothing more than to ruin Plattsburghâ€™s party and gain a small measure of revenge for last yearâ€™s semi-final game.