Endicott not playing like the new kids on the block

Endicott freshman goaltender Kevin Aldridge is a key component of the Gulls’ early-season success in 2015-16 (photo: David Le).

When you look at the roster for Endicott, you will find 28 freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors among the 32-player team.

Coming from the club ranks into NCAA Division III eligibility, building a competitive team has been the focal point for head coach R.J. Tolan and his staff and the early returns in the young season are showing very positive signs.

“First, I am delighted to be part of the Endicott family,” said Tolan. “When Dr. Richard Wylie, the school president, and Brian Wylie, the athletic director, came to me with this opportunity which is literally five minutes from my home, I knew it was the right place for me. It was very clear the dedication they have to successful academics and athletics at Endicott. Over the past year, we have been focused on preparing to be a competitive D-III program focused on doing it the right way and with the right kind of kids for this school.”

Assistant coaches Jonathan McCourt and Lachlan Burgess get a lot of credit from their boss on the quality and character of the players recruited to Endicott. Both qualities get treated with equal importance by the coaching staff and are seen as necessary elements for success.

“We are trying to establish traditions here,” noted Tolan. “Right now, I want players who are going to be good citizens on campus – kids that will open doors for people and do things the right way. Jonathan and Lachlan have done a great job in finding kids that really fit the culture here at Endicott and give us the opportunity to establish a competitive NCAA program from the prior club status. We are building the program a game at a time.”

After opening 0-1-2, which included an overtime loss to the defending conference champions from Nichols, Endicott has won four games in a row with three of the wins coming on the road. The program’s first win came at Salve Regina by a 7-5 score on Nov. 12.

“We are obviously a very young team,” said Tolan. “With that will come some growing pains and chances to continually improve our game. We opened up a big lead against Salve Regina in their building, which is a tough place to play. We let them back in it in the third period, but got the win and lots of lessons learned about 60 minutes of hockey and compete level at the college level. I know it’s cliché and a bit boring, but we really do want to build on our game experiences and be better each time we play.”

The first win has evolved into a four-game win streak that includes wins over Wentworth, Johnson and Wales and Becker. During the first seven games, the Gulls have seen their youngsters take flight quickly. Twenty players have recorded a point already this season and goaltender Kevin Aldridge has been very consistent as the starter in all seven games to date. Aldridge has a .932 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA.

Offensively, Parker Wood and Josh Bowes lead the way with seven points each and nine of the team’s 23 goals so far this season. Wood, who was named ECAC Northeast Player of the Week last week scored the game winning goal against Johnson and Wales late in the third period, while Bowes, too, has a game-winner to his credit in the first win at Salve Regina.

The Gulls not only have a new team, but also opened play at the new Raymond J. Bourque Arena on Nov. 7 in a 1-1 tie with conference foe Suffolk. The new facility, along with the rink and coaching staffs, provide further indication of the commitment that the school has made to both the men’s and women’s programs at the D-III level.

“When I was offered the opportunity to come here and coach, it was very clear that the entire institution from the president on down were committed to our success,” stated Tolan. “Everything has been first-class in the completion of the facility and opportunities for our student-athletes at a good school like Endicott. We are looking to build the tradition of good student athletes and good people as much as we are good players on the ice.”

The Gulls will experience another testing weekend as they travel to Maine for the Bowdoin/Colby Tournament and games with both NESCAC schools before returning home to close out the first semester with games against Stonehill and Salem State.

The early returns are good, but the expectations for ongoing improvement are what the coaches are emphasizing with their young team. The results to date are encouraging and like their coach says, they are just working to be better in the next game they play – the Gulls will be focused only on Bowdoin as the next team in their learning progression.