Cutting down penalty minutes key for Westfield State

After a 20-year hiatus, Westfield State will look to continue its success entering its third year since returning as a varsity program.

The Owls have posted a 24-19-7 record the last two seasons and are poised to continue their success this season.

“First and foremost, Jerry Keefe did a great job the first year back,” second year coach Bob Miele said. “We were lucky to get one good transfer and good players that first year. Every year you look to improve and make the necessary moves to do that.”

Up front, the Owls lose two important scorers in Casey Mignone (17-19) and Mike Muolo (7-10) but return a solid number of options for putting points on the board.

Among the returning talent for Westfield State is senior Dennis Zak (11-27), who was a first team All-MASCAC member. “We hope to see some pretty good things from him,” Miele said.

Also back is sophomore Pat Nelson, who tied for the league lead in goals as a freshman, along with classmate Lucas Romero (8-16).

Senior Dylan Scanlon (3-11), who led the Owls defenseman in scoring, returns in front of an uncertain situation in net.

Senior Ray Monroe (3.85, .901) and junior Ian Wilson (3.95, .886) return after splitting time in net last season.  Freshman Eddie Davey is also in the fold as well.

“It’s open right now,” Miele said of his goaltending situation. “We’re just going to have to take it game-by-game and when they get the opportunities, make the most of them,” he said, comparing the situation to the one the Bruins face between Tim Thomas and Tukka Rask.

Miele can only hope one of his netminders can emulate the success of Thomas, who thus far has gotten off to a record start in the early going.

If the Owls are going to be successful this year, they need to cut back on their penalties.

“We led the nation last year in penalty minutes,” Miele said. “We made some adjustments to be more disciplined.”

Miele also added two new assistants along with a graduate assistant to his staff in the offseason.  Brian Sullivan, who played at Northeastern and Mass.-Boston, and is the brother of former Boston Bruins head coach Mike Sullivan, is on board, as is Randy Hevey, who will work with the goaltenders. Mike Young, who served as captain since the Owls returned to the varsity level, is back as a graduate assistant as well.

“Every Division III coach hopes they have a good feeling about their team,” Miele said. “Everybody probably thinks they fixed what they thought was wrong with their team, but you never know until you start playing the games.”