The Fredonia State men's hockey opens its season Friday at home against SUNY Canton. Game time is 7 p.m. in the Steele Hall Ice Arena. Doors open at 6 p.m.
The Blue Devils, who also play Saturday night at Utica, were 12113 last season. They were 673 in the SUNYAC.
Head coach Jeff Meredith is beginning his 25th season behind the Blue Devil bench. He has coached nearly 700 games 691 to be exact and has won well over half of them (356-271-64 according to collegehockeystats.net).
Meredith said the team has adopted a mantra of "All In" with the seniors beating the drum the loudest. The group consists of forwards Mat Hehr, Ian Cosgrove, John O'Connor, Will McLaughlin, Chris Jung and Brett Mueller; along with defensemen Ken Nosky and Brad Nunn.
Meredith points out the senior group was knocked out in the first round of the SUNYAC Tournament as freshmen, won two playoff games and advanced to the conference championship game as sophomores, and defeated Geneseo before losing to Oswego in the semifinals last year.
"They have been," Meredith said, "in a lot of different places in the playoffs except the place they want to be, which is winning the conference tournament. With the eight seniors, there's a large commitment to that."
Hehr is the top point-getter among the group (35 goals, 33 assists) while O'Connor, McLaughlin, and Jung and Mueller have been solid role players. Cosgrove is making a position change from defense to forward, while Nunn has started 77 games - most among all the seniors - and Nosky another 58 games on the blue line.
"Hehr put up a fair amount of points last year, a lot of them were power-play points," Meredith said. "I actually thought he had a down year last year but he committed himself to the weight room over the summer."
Mueller is the team captain and plays the gritty style of game Meredith is expecting from this year's team. He wants the Blue Devils to become more physical while taking fewer penalties than they did last year. He's ready to sit out players who don't follow the plan, and Mueller is helping spread that message to his teammates.
"He has done a very good job of leadership, he has a good command of the dressing room," Meredith said. "He's the guy down there. Everything goes through him. I'm excited to have a guy with those qualities."
Alex Perkins, a junior forward, is the assistant captain and another player with grit. "He's just a hockey player," Meredith said. "To me that's just a compliment. He's a guts-and-no-glory kind of guy, not afraid to block shots, and do all the little things."
Three sophomore forwards figure prominently in the offensive game plan. Jared Wynia was the SUNYAC Rookie of the Year last season after scoring seven goals in just 11 conference games before injuries cost him nearly a third of the season. Stephen Castriota had 10 goals overall, the most among all returning players, while Brian Doust managed seven goals and six assists in 19 games, including a goal in a playoff game vs. Geneseo.
"When last season started," Meredith said, "he (Doust) was just four months off of knee surgery, and then he got mono in November and was out the rest of the semester. He never got a chance to get going. I know we haven't seen the best of him yet and that excites me."
With the inclusion of Nosky and Nunn, Meredith feels the Blue Devils are deep on defense in front of two junior goaltenders, starter Mark Friesen and backup Jeff Holloway. Friesen has appeared in 46 games the past two seasons and has posted a 21183 record with a 2.69 goals-against average. During the summer, he took his already intense workout regimen to a new level and put together a training blog complete with video.
"I think he is among the top couple goalies in our league," Meredith said. "My take is he's out to let everyone else know that besides me."
On the downside, both Friesen and Holloway have told Meredith there is a possibility they will not return in 2013-14 for their senior seasons in order to pursue other academic challenges. On the upside, Meredith feels he has brought a solid recruiting class to campus this fall, albeit no goaltenders. Three Alberta natives - forward Taylor Bourne and defensemen Ryan Wilkinson and Mitch Kaufmann - lead the freshmen group.
"Tyler is gifted offensively," Meredith said. "He wants the puck all the time and can hang onto it. Wilkinson is smooth with the puck, has good vision. He kind of reminds me of (former Blue Devil defenseman) Steve Albert. Kaufmann is a tough, offensive-minded defenseman."
The 2012-13 schedule consists of 13 regular-season home games, including an Oct. 30 visit from Penn State, which is in its first season as an NCAA Division I varsity program. The annual Pink The Rink game is Feb. 8 vs. Cortland.
Men's Cross Country
Men's team back in regional rankings
The Fredonia State men's cross country team is back in the USTFCCCA NCAA Division III Atlantic Region rankings.
The Blue Devils - coming off a 10th place finish last Saturday in the Inter-Regional Rumble at Oberlin, Ohio - are No. 10 in the Week 6 Atlantic Region rankings released Tuesday.
They were No. 10 in the preseason rankings and No. 8 when the Week 2 rankings were released Sept. 11, then fell out of the Top 10 for the next four ranking periods.
The next regional poll will be released in two weeks.
"We are way ahead of last year's team that was unranked at SUNYACs and finished 10th overall (in the Atlantic Region)," head coach Tom Wilson said.
The Blue Devils are idle this weekend before hosting the SUNYAC Championship meet for men and women next Saturday, Oct. 27, at Lake Erie State Park.