The Keene State College hockey team’s good start has players hopeful for another successful season.
“This year we have hard working guys that buy into our system,” alternate captain Taylor Adolphson said. “These guys don’t argue with coaches and don’t talk back.”
Taylor said last year, the players got too comfortable with themselves and ended up losing games he felt they should have won. After starting out with two big wins against the University of Maine this year, the team is determined not to get complacent.
“We’re very physical this season, we work really hard,” co-captain Mike Allen said. “We’re going to battle for all three periods this season and wear teams down with our strength and speed.”
The best way to maximize that energy is to exploit the team’s newfound youth. Roughly 50 roster hopefuls showed up at this year’s tryouts to compete for 28 spots. The result was a surprisingly young team, a trend that started last year.
“We’re pretty young, we only have four seniors and four juniors,” co-captain Colby Tyler said. “So there’s a lot of new kids learning how to play at the collegiate level.”
The process of building on-ice chemistry has also been a slow one. But Tyler said he sees the camaraderie building as the season progresses.
“We have twelve freshmen, so it’s a little different than past years,” Tyler said. “But we’ve come together as a really solid group, we had a good bonding trip in Maine.”
So far things have gone smoothly, as the team sits at 3-1 overall, but Adolphson isn’t pretending there isn’t a learning curve to deal with.
“We probably have to work on our defensive zone play, we can get sloppy,” Adolphson said. “We just need to settle down with the puck in our own zone and break out, just transition fast out of our zone.”
Perhaps head coach Bobby Rodrigue had that in mind when he scheduled the Maine trip to open the season. Perhaps nothing forces friendship like being stuck on a bus for six hours together. In similar fashion, the team flew to Florida for a tournament early on last season.
“I’m optimistic, I definitely think we’ll have a successful year,” Adolphson said.
But challenges lie ahead for this team. Making the playoffs in the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association is always difficult. A big game against the University of Massachusetts Amherst lurks later in the month, and November features gut-check games against NECHA foes Boston College, Providence College and the University of Vermont.
Regularly playing teams from much larger schools would be a recipe for disaster for some programs, but KSC has held it’s own in recent years.
“I think the key is just recruiting a good group of core guys to come in and fill spots,” Adolphson said.
“We had a good group of sophomores that came in last year and that always helps, bringing in a strong class.”
A casual observer of the games might mistake KSC hockey for one of the school’s most prominent teams, and its “club” status is surprising when considering the level of play and competitive nature of the team.
“I think we kind of are recognized as a sports team in our conference and around campus,” Tyler said. “We’re known as the hockey team, and obviously we take it very seriously.”
The team isn’t making any trips to Florida this season, but that doesn’t mean players aren’t circling dates on their calendars.
There is an away game at New York University on November 15, and the team will also be playing a game against the University of New Hampshire towards the end of the season that has been dubbed “The Granite State Cup.”
All ticket sales for the game will go to charity.
But, for now, the players said they are taking it one game at a time with their sights set on the post-season.
“Our goal is clear this season,” Adolphson said emphatically. “We need to make the NECHA playoffs and go from there.”
Zach Winn can be contacted at