By David Pavlak
Rider’s club ice hockey team will try to get back to its winning ways this season. So far the Broncs have gone 1-1, and are doing their best to erase the memory of last season’s early playoff loss. More importantly, though, they are showing they have the necessary skills to compete and contend year after year in the MACHA.
After opening the season with a 4-2 loss to powerhouse Temple, the Broncs took their frustration out on the D-I Villanova Wildcats, winning 3-1. The Broncs normally play other teams in D-II.
Junior captain Frank Garvey is excited about the opportunity the Broncs have this season to avenge their early playoff loss last season, as well as the incoming talent on the team this year.
“After a disappointing end to a successful season last year I am expecting to do much better,” Garvey said. “We have a great core of returning players, and the new talent coming in is very promising. The new freshmen are all fitting in great. They all have a great attitude and they want to help the team out in any way possible. They understand that we have a chance to do big things and they’re willing to take whatever role they are asked to take.”
Senior Connor Dragone agrees with Garvey.
“My expectations for this season are as high as ever,” Dragone said. “When I see the talent we have on the ice I can’t help but be excited to get the season going. Every year I think you have to go in with high expectations and you work as hard as possible to fulfill and exceed them and I believe we will be able to do that this year. All the veterans on the team were more excited for this year than any other year since I have been here, and now it is just time to get to work and get some wins under our belt. The new freshmen are doing very well to start out the year. Being a freshman is not an easy thing to do because it takes a lot of adjusting to get used to the faster and more physical game at this level, but so far they are doing a great job and we will count on them all throughout the season.”
The road to redemption will not be so easy to reach though, as the Broncs have a tough schedule facing them. Games against Kutztown, East Carolina, Temple, St. Joseph’s and the University of Delaware stand in the way of the Broncs.
“We definitely have a tough schedule this year, but that is something the team and I embrace,” Dragone said. “You always want to test yourself against the best competition and the coaches have lined up some great games for us to show what we can do against some of the best schools on the East Coast.”
Strength and conditioning will be a very important part of the Broncs daily regimen, as fresh legs will be necessary to skate by their opponents every weekend. Last season’s playoffs were a testament to the fact that a busy schedule got the better of Rider. The Broncs were unable to keep up with the speed of the Kutztown forwards, and the result of the game was a clear indication of that.
“That is where the team relies heavily on the experienced players and the coaches to have some sort of game plan going into games against those tough teams,” Dragone said. “We have some great practices during the week and that is where you have to put in the hard work and push yourself to get ready for the weekend.”
“I think we all came into this year ready for a longer, tougher year,” Garvey added. “Coach has added more conditioning to our practice, which will help tremendously.”
The Broncs are now ready to set their sights on the future, and stop dwelling on their recent failure.
“I see this season turning out as a success,” Dragone said. “Our fans should be really excited about the potential we have on this team, and I think a lot of them saw that on Saturday against Villanova. We are going to be a team that will always pride ourselves on outworking the other team and if we do that for all the games we have, I see no reason why we can’t contend for the championship.”
Garvey is also excited about the future of the Broncs. He is instilling the knowledge in them that they have the possibility to taste greatness this season.
“We have a lot of new guys on the team that are going to be asked to step up in a lot of big games,” he said. “If the returning players can help out the younger guys, and everyone ends up on the same page at the right time, then I think this season is going to be one to remember.”