Following a breakthrough season that saw the Castleton men’s hockey team capture the attention of hockey fans everywhere, the Spartans are poised for another great run. Last season ended with a loss to ECAC East foe New England College in the Final Four of the conference championships. This season begins with a shot at redemption.
This Friday, NEC travels to the Rutland Regional Fieldhouse as the puck drops on the 2007-2008 campaign.
According to junior forward Andrew Brolsma, this season’s schedule is a tough one following last year’s terrific season.
“Start off with NEC who knocked us out of the playoffs last year,” Brolsma said. “We owe them for that.”
The return of some key components of last year’s squad, as well as the addition of some talented freshmen, should help the Spartans navigate their way through the challenging schedule.
Team captain, junior center Brandon Heck, is optimistic for the upcoming campaign.
“We’ve had some great practices,” Heck said. “We’re better than we were at this time last year.”
Heck looks for big contributions from the freshmen, in particular defenseman Omar Pacha. The 200-pounder from Quebec is a heads-up player with good hockey sense, especially for a freshman.
“He’s a real good defenseman,” Heck said. “And Omar likes to join the rush.”
According to Heck, another new addition with high expectations is left-winger Stuart Stefan.
“He’s got great touch around the net and he’s a smart player,” Heck said. “We’re looking for him to contribute offensively.”
Stefan joins Heck and sophomore right-winger Steve Culbertson on what should be a very productive line for the Spartans.
Heck and Culbertson were first and second respectively in points last season.
Culbertson tried to put the scope of the Spartans’ success into perspective.
“At the D-III level, we’re looking to put Vermont and Castleton on the map nationally,” Culbertson said.
Culbertson credited the advancements of CSC as an institution for the success of not only the hockey team, but Castleton on the whole.
“Ever since President Wolk took over, a lot of improvements have been made,” Culbertson said. “Not just hockey, but other sports teams, and renovations to the campus.
“You never know what’s going to happen. We think good things are coming from this team this year.”
Following back to back games with NEC and St. Anselm College to start the season, the Spartans have a week off before hosting the Rutland Herald Invitational.
And then, it’s away for two-game road trips on consecutive weekends.
The pre-season U.S. College Hockey Online D-III poll has Castleton just outside the top-15, while perennial powerhouse Middlebury is first. The Spartans will host Middlebury on Jan. 11.