Despite losing three of its first five games, the Castleton men’s ice hockey team has proved it will be a force to be reckoned with all season. The Spartans skated to a 1-1 tie in the opener against New England College, who ended the Spartans’ season last year.
According to sophomore defenseman Nick Westcott, that game was an important one in terms of setting the tone for the season.
“An important game to send a message not only to NEC but also to prove to ourselves that we are capable of beating any team in this league,” Westcott said in an e-mail.
By playing a hard fought defensive battle with NEC and coming away with the tie, the Spartans proved they are for real again this season.
That was followed by a home loss to St. Anselm College.
Then, in the team’s first game of the inaugural Rutland Herald Invitational at the Rutland Regional Fieldhouse, the Spartans jumped all over SUNY Morrisville and won 7-2.
Facing Neumann College in the finals of the tournament, the Spartans fell 3-2 in a back and forth contest. Junior goalie Jeff Swanson and senior defenseman Travis Martell were both honored by being added to the All-Tournament Team.
On Friday the team played its first road game of the season, falling to Bowdoin College in yet another heartbreaking one goal loss.
“After the first couple of weeks and having a couple of losses, we are not happy about our record,” Martell said. “But we are not upset with how we are playing.
“We are all working very hard, but we just need to focus on a couple little details of our game.”
According to head coach Alex Todd, one detail that must receive more focus is desire.
“Most of the players seem unwilling to commit entirely to the team and our play has been so inconsistent that it is hard to say what our biggest problem is,” Todd said in an e-mail. “Right now as a team we are underachieving.”
According to Todd, he is working to find a way to motivate his team and there is still a long season ahead in which problems can be solved.
After last season’s tremendous success, and a start to this season in which the team has shown potential and been competitive, there is still much excitement over the men’s hockey team throughout the CSC community.
And according to Athletic Director Deanna Tyson, the excitement has spread to Rutland.
“The team put us on the map with the Rutland community,” Tyson said. “People realize we have a nice hockey team.”
According to Tyson, at a recent game at the R.R.F., there was a large crowd consisting mostly of members of the Rutland community.
“It wasn’t students because most of them were home for Thanksgiving,” Tyson said.
With success comes attention. And while CSC is now being recognized by the surrounding public for success on the ice, it is also garnering attention from the student body.
According to CSC senior Jeremiah Behnken, that hasn’t always been the case.
“Since Coach Todd came into the picture they’ve been doing really well,” Behnken said. “There is excitement and there are a lot of people who have been looking forward to seeing a good game. And the hockey team has produced many.”
According to sophomore forward Jeff Alexander, following a start to the season that has included a handful of exciting games, the Spartans are not far from converting the one goal losses into victories.
“Eventually our daily dedication and hard work will have to lead to some breaks for our side,” Alexander said. “We have too much talent and skill not to be optimistic.