By Evan Wheaton
The Springfield College club mens ice hockey team isn’t entering the 2019-20 season alone.
For the first time in school history, Springfield has established a women’s club ice hockey team, and they’re set for their inaugural season.
The new program is currently without a team manager, although men’s club ice hockey manager Will Landry is ready to provide whatever is needed to help them take off.
“We have a pretty good thing going here, and if they ever need help, I’m sure they’ll reach out,” Landry said.
In his third year managing the team, Landry believes that the sport is heading in the right direction. With the addition of a womens team, the sport has a growing presence on Alden Street.
“It’s pretty cool having them on campus, I think it’s a big step for our school,” Landry said. “I know Mary-Beth Cooper loves hockey; she’s helped grow the program up at RIT. Having hockey on campus is good, especially when it’s all-inclusive.”
After playing youth hockey and his high school career, Landry never took to the ice again after suffering a broken clavicle. Still desiring to be involved with the sport, he found his opportunity with Springfield.
Three years later, he’s been paramount in growing the game.
“I love hockey. Ever since I was a young kid I was into it,” Landry said. “Being a (Detroit) Red Wings fan with traditions and all that. Hockey’s in my blood.”
With Landry’s graduation set at the end of the fall semester, there will be a need for a new team manager to finish off the campaign in the spring. Until then, he’s primed to carry out his duties through a deep-rooted love of the game.
The men’s team has three senior captains this year: defensemen Doug Shane and Matthew Gazaille, and forward Jamie Matteo.
Two notable losses from the roster include Travis Price and Marc Steele.
Price had played through his four undergraduate seasons, along with his grad year. The upperclassmen joked about retiring the No. 2 jersey in his honor.
“He was huge, he was energy,” Shane said. “He brought everything to the team. He scored when we needed him to, and he hit. He was on our penalty kill; he did everything he needed to for us.”
Steele graduated and recently signed with the Columbus River Dragons of the Federal Hockey League, the second player in the past two years from the program to sign a professional deal.
Aside from Shane and Gazaille, with the departure of Andrew Schmidt from graduation, Chris Clemmenson opting out of the season due to focusing on internships in the Spring, and Liam Fitzgerald joining the Air Force, the only other returning defenseman is sophomore Hayden Choate.
There’s currently a position battle for starting goalie, one that’s leaning towards George Matteo. Freshman Greg Lucente and junior Griffin Spear, a transfer from New England College, are also contending for goalkeeper.
“It’s a good battle to have when you’re battling for the starting goalie position,” Shane said.
With nine freshmen, the team has substantial young talent.
“We want to lead by example, show the freshmen, get everybody active right away, and go from there,” Shane said.
The new additions are already bonding with the returning core. Making the transition from high school to the college level has involved substantial reps at practice. The new recruits will play in the top line all-throughout the season as the club focuses on building up their roster.
“I’m looking forward to forming a brotherhood,” defenseman Tino Pizzarella said.
Forward Matthew Hermann added, “I’m looking forward to bond as a team, get to know everybody, and play hard and get it.”
The Pride will drop the puck on the 2019-20 campaign with three divisional games in the NECHA Colonial South.
In their first game of the season on Oct. 20 at 5:00 p.m. The Pride will travel to Coast Guard. Their home opener will be held at Smead Arena on Oct. 25 at 5:00 p.m. as they host Harvard.
The University of New Haven will come to Springfield two days later for a 4:30 p.m. matchup. There will likely be familiar faces in attendance, as the club has a strong alumni following.
“It’s awesome, this locker room, ever since I started, is like no other,” Landry said. “I love walking in there every day (and) getting to see all the boys. That carries on to the past alumni too. Charlie Murphy, Steve Young, and Jake Barnacle all hang around and make sure their faces are seen once in a blue moon. It’s awesome to have such a tight group of alumni that really care about our well-being and how we’re doing.”
Two large white banners hang in Smead. Proudly printed on them is “NECHA Colonial Conference Champions” from their 2017 and 2018 seasons. Along with making regionals last year, the Pride have seen a lot of success in recent times. With the level of expectation comes the former players that still support their old teammates.
“It gives us something to work for,” Shane said. “Fill the shoes that were there when I was a freshman. The seniors, we want to do well for them because they’re watching.”
With a large and talented incoming class and strong alumni following, along with a women’s expansion club, hockey will have a strong presence on campus this year.
Photo courtesy of Joe Sottile