After a trip to the NCAA semifinal game last season, where Hobart lost to eventual champion Neumann, the Statesmen are hungry to get back to the Promised Land this year. Hobart has played in the NCAA tournament three of the last four years, but the team knows it needs to take care of all of the little details throughout the season to get there again.
“We want to do exactly what we have been doing which is contend for a national championship,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “That won’t be how we totally judge ourselves, but we will get back to doing things the Hobart hockey way. Hopefully we will do the best we can and will do it better than anyone else.”
The Statesmen have to fill a big hole in net this season following the graduation of Keith Longo, who was one of two All-American goaltenders to play at Hobart. The other was Adam Lavelle who graduated in 2005.
“I’ve been fortunate to have two All-American goalies during my time here,” said Taylor. “There is a link between the level of goaltending and the level of success we have achieved. Going into this year, there will be a new name and a new face, but the expectations will be the same. Pressure is a good thing for goaltending.”
The only experienced netminder returning this year is sophomore Terje Larsson who only saw 30 minutes of action last season. He will be joined by a trio of freshmen goaltenders to compete for the starting job.
“It’s going to be dog-eat-dog to who grabs the reigns,” said Taylor. “Freshmen goaltending is a relevant factor.”
The loss of three senior defensemen from last year’s team will add to the pressure in the defensive zone for Hobart. The Statesmen have six veteran blueliners returning, four of them seniors, but they have scored only 24 career goals between them. The five incoming freshmen will need to jump into the mix quickly.
“We’ll be a little greener back there, but return four guys who played in the NCAA game last year,” said Taylor. “I like the freshmen defensemen in the fold. They are older and experienced and did great things in junior hockey.”
Hobart is looking much better up front, having only lost two forwards to graduation. Even so, the Statesmen brought in five freshmen forwards this season to add some depth into the lineup.
“I like who we have coming back but we’ve got some freshmen that will inject some newness up front,” said Taylor. “We’re going to be 12 deep of forwards that will contribute to the game. I like the depth of what we have up front.”
With so many unknowns, Hobart might struggle early on as they try to put all of the pieces together. But if the defensive side of the puck settles into a rhythm, expect the depth of the Statesmen offense to take control of games.
“The biggest challenge is getting everything in synch,” said Taylor. “The challenge of guys not getting back to what they need to do to play. Every year, you have to go right back to doing the kinds of things that made you successful the year before and sometimes you get away from that.”