Camels celebrate seniors with eye to the future

Senior Matt Creamer opened the scoring for Conn College on Senior Night in their 2-1 upset win over Norwich (Photo by Helen Fulmer)

Like many teams striving to find a way to play competitive hockey this season, Connecticut College found strength in its administration and its players and coaches to make a partial season possible. What has ensued has been a planful approach to celebrating the seniors and preparing a young roster for what will hopefully a fast start in the 2021-2022 NESCAC season.

“First I have to thank the great efforts by the administration here at the school,” noted head coach Jim Ward. “From the President to the Head of Student Life and our Athletic Director, everyone was focused on keeping our student athletes safe but giving them a chance to play. None of this happens without their support along with the sacrifices the players have made to get on the ice and keep everyone safe so we can play. From the first road trip for the exhibition at Norwich our focus has been on making this season special for our seniors and our second goal has been to help our young players learn the culture, systems and gain valuable experience that will set us up for a fast start for next season. So far, I would say we have been successful with both.”

After dropping a 6-2 exhibition game to Norwich, the Camels then went 3-0-1 with a sweep of Albertus Magnus and a win and a tie with Becker. The re-match with Norwich would take place at home and have the added ceremony of Senior Night to recognize the efforts of the core group and their contributions to the school and program. The script was set, and the Camels delivered with a stunning upset of the Cadets, winning a hard-fought 2-1 game to remain unbeaten and hand the visitors their first loss since December of 2019.

“It was a great hockey game,” said Ward. “We are thrilled with the win against a really good team. It was great that it happened on Senior Night and that both our seniors and new freshmen figured prominently in the outcome. Matt [Creamer] has been the heart and soul of this team and scoring the first goal of the game was a big lift for the squad. Add in the freshmen performances with Seth [Stadheim] picking up the game winning goal in the third period and Cam [Fernandez] making big saves to preserve the win, it was everything we wanted for the season in a single game. Great for the seniors and great for the team going forward with confidence into next season.”

Like any team that is truly the sum of its pieces, Ward and his staff have certainly had to mange the program differently this season which ironically includes no formal team meetings. Practices have been shorter and crisper and video work has been modified to support the distancing aspects for the players. Additionally, coach Ward and assistant coach Joe Giordano have leveraged the leadership of two juniors on the roster: Chris Adamsons and Kyle Shero.

“Chris already wears an “A” for us this season,” stated Ward. “We are looking forward to next year about with these two guys, but we have leaned on them to help fill some of the gaps that the “inconvenience of Covid” has created for us. I guess our bust trip to Northfield for the could technically count as our first and only in person team meeting but working through some of the requirements and inconveniences has shown us different ways to be successful as a group.”

As one of only two NESCAC schools to play competitive games (Colby is the other) this season, Connecticut College will close out this most different of all seasons with three games against NESCAC rival Trinity. The Bantams have been delayed in their return to the ice due to COVID challenges with scheduled opponents and will face a confident Camel squad in a home-and-home series this weekend followed by a single game at Trinity on April 3.

“It is always a big rivalry when we play Trinity,” noted Ward. “With all of the challenges of the season we have tried not to put too much of the schedule out there because we have had changes and needed to be flexible and realistic during this pandemic-influenced season. We certainly hope to continue to evolve our game against another skilled team like Trinity as we continue to recognize our senior class and create meaningful on-ice experiences for our developing players.”