Boschetto building contender at Salve Regina

Andrew Boschetto isn’t afraid to schedule up. He believes in challenging his Salve Regina Seahawks. He believes that kind of a tough trek will only prepare them for the final sprint in the ECAC Northeast.

Along the way, he can live with some of the bumps in the road. Because when you’re a team on the rise, and you have to play ranked opponents, there are bound to be plenty of them., and there clearly have been for this group.

However, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do it all over again … the same exact way.

“For us, my philosophy is, I want to schedule the best; it’ll show you how close you are to competing at the national level,” said Boschetto, who began his collegiate playing career at Hobart before finishing it at Suffolk. “Sometimes, it can hurt your confidence, and we’re a younger team, but we went hard in those games, and we got something out of them. We showed glimpses, at times, that we can compete with those teams. Our plan was to get some confidence out of it. We believe we have. We believe we’re battle-tested, we’ve gone through some adversity, and we’re ready for the stretch here.”

Last weekend was a perfect example of Boschetto’s theory. Salve Regina hit the road, to upstate New York, and ran into Utica and Geneseo in a 24-hour span. The Pioneers, ranked No. 8 in the country, and Knights, who received seven points in the poll this week, have combined for 19 wins already this season and can roll line after line at you. The Seahawks learned that in a hurry, losing to both by identical 6-2 scores.

“Our leadership is as vast as it’s ever been since I’ve been here, ” Boschetto said. “This is a tough team, and the feeling in the locker room after that is that they’re (ticked). They can look at themselves in the mirror, which is good, instead of looking at the other team. They knew they played tough teams. But they know they could’ve played better, too, and I think they carried that home. I think that’s good, and it’ll help in the long run.”

That mindset will likely help in a conference race that is about to heat up, because overall records aside, the fight for the ECAC Northeast postseason this year is wide open. The Seahawks are just 4-9-1 on the season, but they are 2-3 in the league, and are just four points behind front-running Western New England. Salve Regina will meet Assumption on Wednesday night, and Massachusetts-Dartmouth on Saturday in nonleague play before jumping right back into conference competition.

“It’s up for grabs in our conference, there’s no doubt about it,” Boschetto said. “There’s a lot of parity within the league. Whoever gets hot down the stretch is going to give themselves a real, real shot. For us, we just have to make sure our guys are prepared fully — mentally, physically — and be ready. We really feel that we can control our own destiny.”

Up front, the talent is there, regardless of the record … and it’s young. Freshman forward Marc Biggs (nine goals, three assists), headed into Wednesday’s action, highlighted a group of five Seahawks in double-digit scoring. Another freshman forward, Cameron Gaudet, was right behind him with eight goals and four assists. Forwards Peter Gintoli (freshman), Michael Naso (sophomore), and John Scorcia (sophomore) all had 10 points each, as well.

Freshman goaltender David Chiokadze hasn’t been bad, either. In conference play — which, let’s face it, is where Salve Regina is going to make or break its season — he is 2-2 with a 2.48 goals-against average. He is also second in minutes played, at 2:17.31.

“We know who they are as kids, and not just hockey players; just about everyone on our team has won championships elsewhere, and I think that makes us mentally tougher,” Boschetto said. “But they are still kids who are becoming men, and they have a lot going on in their lives. We understand that, and we adjust according to that. We’re getting there. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we know these are great kids, and that’s why we love what we do — getting a chance to work with a group like this.”

That’s all part of the process for Boschetto, who has big plans at this Newport, R.I. school of some 2,600 students. His strategies are strong, his plans are long term, and he has the right mindset, on- and off-the-ice. It probably has a little something to do with a balanced, memorable playing career, where he helped mold the identity and culture at two programs: The Statesmen, the No. 3 team in the country, and the first-place team in the ECAC West, as well as the Rams.

“To be honest, over the long haul, I’d love to be at Salve and build a dynasty here,” he said. “Academics, athletics, this place has everything you can hope for. It’s a great school in a great place. I mean who doesn’t want to get a great education and play hockey near the beach in Newport, R.I.?

“We’ve gotten some of the top kids, from high-end programs, and we’re going to continue to move in that direction. I think Salve is a diamond in the rough here. It’ll take some work, but I’d love to be here long term, and see it through. For me, that’s the plan. I think we can get to the national level.”

Record notwithstanding — and considering the level of competition — the Seahawks might just already be on their way.