Following multiple delays and a 14-day in-room quarantine period, the Norwich Cadets finally and officially kicked off their season last week with three games in four days against in-state rival Castleton. While the season is quite short and there is no conference or national tournament trophy to be won, the team is committed to advancing the program to the next level and all of the players have been focused on being united and driven to be better while they play the game they love.
“It has been humbling to see how much they have stuck together through all of the challenges,” said head coach Cam Ellsworth. “I challenged them from the outset that no matter what happened be united as a group and focus on helping to advance our program beyond this year. Norwich hockey has a great culture and great traditions. The program was literally built on the backs of the men that came before us and we need to continue that growth and continuity regardless of the circumstances created outside of our control.”
Like many teams finding the start of their season where it normally ends, Norwich saw multiple delays due to COVID events with planned opponents and scrambled to find a way to play competitive hockey at the end of February. With a lot of effort from school administration and the athletic department, Connecticut College emerged as a first exhibition game before the season went official with three games against Castleton.
“You feel for the players so everyone is working so hard to find a way to play but maintaining the safety needed to prevent outbreaks or transmission,” noted Ellsworth. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the university’s leadership including Col. Mark Anarumo (USAF-Retired) our university president, as well as our athletic director, Tony Mariano. They have been incredibly supportive and enabling of our playing this season.”
Against Conn College, the Cadets used every able-bodied player in a 6-2 win that featured some new transfers and younger players getting valuable ice time in different roles with the team. In the three games against Castleton, all wins, the trend continued with the team seeing great progress in their individual and collective games.
“We are graduating seven of our top scorers from a national tournament team at the end of this season,” stated Ellsworth. “All of those kids have meant a lot to the success of the program and they have worked equally hard off the ice to prepare themselves for life after graduation either in the professional career path or committed to military service. So, we aren’t recruiting our seniors for one more season. We did have three transfers come in this year who have fit in nicely with the culture and are helping us to move forward. Drennen [Atherton] obviously has some big shoes to fill in succeeding goaltender Tom Aubrun who statistically in the best ever to play here and he has played well. Cale [List] is a bigger defenseman that I had recruited at Lowell. It didn’t really work out for Cale at Lowell, but he has fit in nicely here and gives us some size on the blue line. Michael [Green] actually reached out to us and we knew him a bit from playing against him at Southern Maine. He also brings some size and skill upfront and has blended into our culture well.”
With a lot of focus on personal video analysis, team video reviews and practices focused on pushing the players forward, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of the younger players are showing very promising signs for where the team needs them to be for the remainder of this season and into the next. Freshman defenseman Logan vande Meerakker has three points in two games played while sophomores Phil Elgstam (1-4-5) and Niks Krollis (3-1-4) have been key contributors in the Cadets’ three straight wins over Castleton.
“Niks is a great story,” said Ellsworth. “He was a “slash” guy as a forward or defenseman even though he has always played mostly as a forward. Last semester in order for us to practice fully, Niks switched back to defense. It was a really selfless move and now we are seeing the benefits of all that work to start the season.”
This weekend the Cadets play a home-and-home series against Plymouth State who swept a two-game series with Anna Maria before dropping a pair of games to Babson last weekend.
“They were a conference championship and NCAA team last season when the pandemic ended the season,” said Ellsworth. “It will be a good test for our team and another benchmark for us to measure our progress as a group this season.”