Most teams might not be thrilled about sitting in fifth place in a conference filled with national heavyweight contenders. For coach T.J. Manastersky and his Curry Colonels, the standings aren’t the total story of how the team is playing and competing in the ultra-competitive CCC.
“We are very comfortable sneaking up on some teams,” noted Manasatersky. “Most people think about or read about the Endicotts, Salves [Regina], and the University of New England all being at the top of our league and getting national recognition. It is crazy that a team like Nichols, who has won the conference in three of the past six years, goes under the radar screen a bit, so all things considered I like being the underdog and having the possibility that someone looks past us, and our level of play catches them by surprise. There are only a few points separating first from fifth place, so a lot of movement can happen between now and the end of the regular season.”
With big wins over Endicott and Massachusetts-Boston already this season, the Colonels aren’t likely to be sneaking up on many teams in the conference, but coming down the stretch, the team is right where their coach wants them to be in terms of their focus, consistency, and execution on the ice.
“I think we have really picked up our game over the last nine to 10 games,” said Manastersky. “We are a pretty young team with 22 players that are freshmen or sophomores. We only have three seniors on the roster, so there were some big learning moments for this team. I think we really picked up a lot of understanding during our four-game losing streak. It was tough, but it taught us about what it really takes to compete and win at this level. I think the young guys really learned a lot coming out of that stretch, and we are seeing the benefits of that now.”
The three seniors, Zachery White, Lionel Mauron, and Mack Heisinger, are also the captains for this year’s team, and Manastersky credits their leadership in helping the youthful Colonels to get to where they are playing their best hockey when they need it in the stretch run to the playoffs.
“Those guys are a strong group of captains and leaders,” noted Manastersky. “They aren’t dictators in any way on or off the ice. There is no posturing in how they approach the game, and they definitely lead by example on the ice with their mature and fully committed style of play.”
Zachery White (13-13-26), who also captains the Curry lacrosse team, leads the Colonels in scoring and is always the first guy on the ice for practice and the last one to leave the ice at the end of the session. He, like his fellow seniors, has been a key on-ice performer to show the younger players how it’s done the right way.
“They all bring something special to the table to support the team,” said Manastersky. “Leo [Mauron] is such a mature individual and calming force on the team, which is amazing in that English is his third language after French and German. Mack [Heisinger] received all-conference recognition as a freshman and has been a significant contributor for us on the blue line. He was injured against Endicott a couple of Fridays ago, and we hope to get him back soon. He is close to playing 100 games for Curry, and we would love to see him get there with us winning more games and going deeper in the season.”
So just where have the Colonels improved the most over their past 10 games or so? The answer is their complete game, but one area of pride is the improved performance on the penalty kill.
“Our numbers early in the season were not very good,” said Manastersky. “Right now, we are still at 82 percent, but that number has gone up significantly over our last nine or 10 games. That shows hard work, discipline, and commitment to our style of play, which is now earning better results on the ice and helping us win hockey games by limiting opponents’ chances on the power play. It is a great sign that we are continuing to develop and improve as a team.”
After taking three of four points from Nichols this past weekend, Curry is just three points behind the top spot and in the hunt to compete for first place in the conference. While they don’t play some of the ranked teams in the final weeks, their coach is not taking anyone lightly that remains on the Colonels’ schedule.
“We aren’t looking ahead at all,” said Manastersky. “Wentworth knocked off Salve Regina just last week, and Becker and Western New England can be dangerous, so we have to continue to work hard to earn the points we need to move our way up in the standings. Like I said, I like where we are as a team, and I think our confidence and high level of play will keep us in the hunt right to the end.”