Another summer has gone by at Neumann College, and another late coaching change has occurred. After completing only one season at the helm, Phil Roy left Neumann in August for an assistant position at D-I Merrimack.
Neumann College athletic director Chuck Sack scrambled — again — and hired Dominik Dawes in mid-September. Dawes, a 2004 Norwich graduate, played professional hockey for two seasons before starting in the coaching ranks at Hamilton College for another two years. He took over for Hamilton coach Phil Grady midway through last season, getting his first taste of being in the driverâ€™s seat.
â€œIt was kind of a tangled web to get here,â€ said Dawes. â€œItâ€™s kind of been a whirlwind to get setup and squared away.â€
Helping Dawes settle in is a very large senior class, players who have now had three coaches in the last three seasons.
â€œI canâ€™t tell you how great the players have been so far,â€ said Dawes. â€œIâ€™ve got 13 seniors here and the leadership has been great. I canâ€™t say enough about how the guys have handled the situation. The seniors have been through a lot.
â€œIâ€™ve been here a month. From day one, they were working out together and getting the younger guys integrated into the team. Theyâ€™ve kept this program on track.â€
Neumann graduated several players last spring that were instrumental in turning what had been a dismal program into a contender. Neil Trimm, Mike Gooch, and Mike Collichio are names that have become synonymous with Neumann hockey over the last four years.
But the Knights shouldnâ€™t be wanting for goals this season as this yearâ€™s group of seniors can also put the puck in the net. Returning is 30 goal scorer Mike Hedden and Kyle Casey who tallied 16 goals last season.
â€œWeâ€™re going to be a hard-nosed, blue collar team,â€ said Dawes. â€œWeâ€™ve still got some great players here. Weâ€™ve got guys that can play at a very high level and have been successful. Itâ€™s time for some of the guys to step out of the shadows and create a legacy for themselves.â€
Joining the upperclassmen this year is another large class of freshmen, 11 to be exact. Coach Dawes is still learning what he has to work with, having only been on the ice with the team for about two weeks.
â€œIâ€™ve been pleasantly surprised,â€ said Dawes. â€œTheyâ€™ve all come here ready to work, ready to compete, ready to fight for a role on the team. Iâ€™ve been very happy how theyâ€™ve fit in with the older guys. Really, all there is [are] seniors and freshmen. The younger guys have done a good job of allowing the seniors to accept them.â€
The largest question mark is in goal as Neumann tries to replace Mike Collichio who played in 25 games last season.
â€œIâ€™ve got four guys right now on the roster, a senior, a junior, and two freshmen,â€ said Dawes. â€œItâ€™s still kind of up in the air who weâ€™ll go with.â€
Neumann hits the road for its first four games, but the challenge is putting it all together quick enough to get off to a good start.