Cortland was 5-5 overall when they approached the part of the season wrapped around the holiday break. That part of the season is where their coach, Joe Baldarotta, felt the Red Dragons season went into a tailspin. It wasn’t the fact they lost five in a row, it was the fact they missed opportunities to beat some very good teams. They had a third period lead against national champions Neumann, and a two-goal lead against Manhattanville before succumbing in overtime.
“It was disappointing,” Baldarotta said. “We had some close games. I thought we were making strides to get better, but every time we took a step forward, we ended up taking two steps backwards.”
He felt the team was unable to mentally get over those tough losses. They only won two games the rest of the season.
With an added recruiting emphasis on defense and all their goalies back, Cortland will be looking to take this season one game at a time.
“I’m optimistic,” Baldarotta said. “I know how tough the league is. How good everyone in front of us is. Every night is a dogfight. Since we haven’t made the playoffs, we need to just concentrate on the little things. Not to think about the whole season. It’s not a cliché for us.”
Empty Lockers: Defenseman Gerald Heinz, two-time first team All-SUNYAC and two-time second team All-SUNYAC, is the biggest loss for Cortland, as he was also their second-leading scorer. Another key defensive loss is Tim Lloyd.
“You have Gerald Heinz, a very mobile defenseman, offensive defenseman. Tough to replace a guy like that,” Baldarotta said. “Tim Lloyd accepted his role as a steady stay-at-home defenseman.”
Also graduated is their third leading scorer, Patrick Palmisano.
The Core: Back is their leading scorer, Jarrett Gold. Also look for Corey John to up his output. The captains, Jake Saville and Chris Kaleta, will be expected to have an impact as well. They are both tough, hard-nosed, grinding type of players.
As for goaltending, they all return.
“I still got Mike Reilly, Dan Jewell, and Adam Rusiewicz,” Baldarotta said. “They are starting to mature. I don’t think we gave them much help last year. However, this year they have to step up and steal a game for us.”
New Gear: Defense was on the recruiting menu.
Pete Lompado, who red-shirted at Minnesota State, transferred in. Matt McNamee is a very mobile defenseman who can move the puck and shoots very well. Tyler Virgoe is a heads-up, smart player. Baldarotta is looking for them all to be impact players.
Key Question: “The problem has not been physical; it’s been mental,” Baldarotta said.
How Cortland mentally handles the ups and downs of the season will determine how well they do this year. They open with four games at home, which should help them get off to a positive mind set.
Mark Your Calendar Game: December 11 vs. Elmira.
Cortland plays a brutal out-of-conference schedule. In the first semester alone, they face Hobart, Hamilton in a home-and-home, at Neumann twice, and finish up hosting Elmira. Then, they open the second semester against Manhattanville and Utica. Based on what happened last year, how they wrap up the semester against Elmira before going on break will be very significant.