Keene State College athletics has the type of commitment that most athletes will abide to strictly over their time at KSC. If a program is not yet NCAA approved, the KSC men’s club hockey team is certainly making a case for attaining their goal in becoming a D-III program. Progress is not only being made on the ice, but off the ice as well in a season full of accomplishments, surprises and progress towards a bright future.
The KSC club hockey team is bringing an end to the 2012-2013 season with hope for the coming future, even after posting a sub-par record with and an overall record of 7-11-2. Though, like every year, they face the looming graduation of seniors. These players are key components of their team
A starting accomplishment this season is the weekend-long series they played against defending National Champions, Florida Gulf Coast University. Not only did they sweep the champs in a two-game series, but they also did it while skating on the Sunshine State team’s own ice.
Head Coach Bobby Rodrigue said this was a huge step for the program.
“I think overall we’re certainly satisfied with a lot of the things the guys have done. Obviously you always hope for more success,” Rodrigue said. “We beat Northeastern [University] for the first time, we beat UMass-Amherst for the first time and we swept Florida Gulf Coast for the first time, being the first team from the Northeast ever to do that. In terms of competitive level we’ve done some good things and we’ve done some good things off the ice with the guys academically getting stronger.”
Rodrigue continued by defending his team’s credibility as their performance this season isn’t expressed by the record shown.
“It’s tough because there’s always some must-win games and some should-win games and I’d say we didn’t capitalize on those,” Rodrigue said. “It’s disappointing because most of the members of the ranking committee agree with me that this team is certainly good enough to deserve a spot in that tournament.”
Over the last four years, the KSC Men’s Program has shown great improvement, especially due to senior leaders and captains Patrick Sullivan and Bob Fuller. With only four seniors on the roster, including goalie Cam Gould and David Robicheau on defense, the players’ legacy in the program will be missed, Rodrigue commented.
Sullivan was happy with this season, but still disappointed with not making the regional tournament similar to the past few years. Despite the frustration, his experience at Keene State College was “unforgettable,” according to Sullivan.
“It was a good experience and it’s always fun seeing young kids come in and showing them the way,” Sullivan said. “We had a lot of potential but it was clear we had a young team and a young team takes a lot of time to develop.”
He added, “It’s my last year playing competitive hockey and as of right now I do not have a pro contract coming. I expect to play in men’s leagues, but it was a good way to end it and I felt this was a good way to end it and it’s a great way to go out with some of the kids you’ve played with for the last four years.”
Assistant Captain Bob Fuller’s greatest memory about playing for Keene State College dates back to the very first time he took a step onto Coach Rodrigue’s ice.
“My favorite moment playing KSC … I’d still have to say making it as a freshman,” Fuller said. “The competition was tough and going into it I thought it was a 50-50 chance so I’d say that’s up there.”
Fuller’s character wasn’t deterred by the lack of accomplishing another year making regional playoffs since the team remained to stick together all season.
“As a team, there are some positives and negatives we finished with,” Fuller said. “We didn’t make it to regionals and that hurt a little bit but we stayed close knit as a group with no problems on and off the ice so ultimately that’s an outcome I’m pretty proud to be a part of.”
With only four seniors graduating, the future of the program shows a deep roster full of committed players still looking for an opportunity for a breakout season. Rodrigue found it difficult to pick out any certain player but proves to be optimistic for his team next season.
“We’ve got a really deep roster so it’s very difficult to single kids out,” Rodrigue said. “I think we’ve got several young kids, especially at defense. Overall, if those kids return, we’re in a good place for years to come on defense.”
“I think we’ve got a really strong team and I think there’s no reason to think that next year’s team isn’t at least as strong as this year’s team.”
With 16 underclassmen returning to the program next year, that statement holds credibility, as there will be only four open spots next season. Not only is the team continuing to develop but they also continue to progress towards a new ice arena in Keene. With a newly constructed rink, the structure could give the Owl’s the opportunity it needs to become an NCAA approved Division-III program.
Along with those developments is a Lady Owl’s club hockey team that Rodrigue has collaborated along with the club’s main leader, freshman Ashley Waterman.
“We’re really excited about what they’re doing,” Rodrigue said. “They’ve got a really core group of leadership that have picked the ball up and get things going. It’s a daunting task to start any club of any sort at the college, especially a sports club and things like that. We’re talking about a group of girls that wants to be competitive and represent the college on the ice just as the men’s team does so I think they’ve done a remarkable job so I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen next year with its growth.”
Not many futures look brighter than the one of the KSC hockey programs. Only the coming years will be able to show the character participants’ payoff in a program that has come to prove its excellence.
Dalton Charest can be contacted