The early-season struggles of the Spartan men’s hockey team have been a reoccurring theme every winter, and this year has not been an exception. The Spartans are off to a disappointing 1-5-2 start. Their only win came at home in the Rutland Herald Invitational Tournament against Becker College.
The Spartans suffered losses at the hands of St. Anselm, Colby and Bowdoin. Castleton’s North Atlantic Conference record has dropped to a dismal 0-3-1. The Spartans’ only tie came on opening weekend versus New England College, ending with a score of 2-2.
Coach Alex Todd said that the effort has been there a majority of the time, but it is just a matter of getting good shots to the net and getting bodies out front. Once that happens, then the offense will come. The Spartans have just 19 goals in eight games this season.
Lindsey Gullett, the Spartans’ leading scorer, agrees, saying, “We just need to work hard for our offense, with bodies out front for screens, and the goals will come. We just have to keep pushing,” he said.
Coming into the season, Todd said the team should be fine, and that he would like to get off to a fast start.
This team has not met the expectations of the fans, coach or players up to this point in the season, but the most recent effort in a come-from-behind tie versus Utica College is a step in the right direction.
“It’s been a tough stretch so far, but a game like this can really bring a team together, and hopefully it will,” senior captain Nick Wescott said of his team’s brilliant third-period effort.
The Spartans trailed on more than one occasion in the game, but never gave in to the pressure of Utica. But Castleton only kept pushing with pressure of their own as Josh Harris and Omar Pacha each added tallies in the third, including a power-play goal with 27 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
“We aren’t where we want to be as a team this many games in, but a game like this feels good,” said Gullett.
There hasn’t been much smiling after games for the Spartans in the early portion of the schedule, but they really seem to be gaining traction to make a run. The team has continued to push to the net, shooting the puck from all over the ice in hopes of generating offense. Doing that will eventually translate into wins soon enough.
“When you put pucks on net, you create scoring opportunities and that is what we need right now. When you play with consistency, bounces start to go in your favor and you start to get the breaks you need to be a winning team,” said freshman forward Ben Schoeneberger.
Todd had a smile on his face after the Utica game saying that the effort was good.
Westcott agreed with his coach.
“I’m happy with our effort tonight, now we can hopefully move forward as a team and get some wins when we come back from break,” he said.
“We have had teams in the past with less talent that have done better. It’s just a matter of time. The team is struggling to find an identity, but it is definitely starting to show,” added Todd.
The Spartans will return to action on New Year’s Day in Plattsburgh, looking to build off of their best effort of the season.