Panthers begin new era with new coach and new arena
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The puck drops on a new era for the Plymouth State University men’s ice hockey program this Saturday when the Panthers open the 2010-11 season with a new head coach in a beautiful new facility.
Plymouth State will host longtime rival Southern New Hampshire University at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday at Hanaway Rink, the main feature of the new on-campus PSU Ice Arena and Savage Welcome Center. A sold-out crowd will be on hand for the opening game against SNHU in the 860-seat arena, including 400 free tickets for PSU students.
|New Head Coach Craig Russell|
The game will also mark the debut of new Panther head coach Craig Russell, who is no stranger to the men’s hockey program. He is a former four-year member of the Panther hockey team who was captain as a senior and has spent the past seven years as the top Panther assistant coach, including the past two years as associate head coach. Russell took over as head coach from Brett Tryder after last season.
One of the highlights on this year’s schedule will be a holiday tournament at Hanaway Rink on Dec. 30-31, as the Panthers host Becker College, Salve Regina University, and the University of New England on the last two days of 2010.
This will be the second year for Plymouth State as a member of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference men’s ice hockey league. PSU finished third in the MASCAC last year in its first season as a hockey league after a six-year hiatus. MASCAC men’s hockey includes PSU, Salem State, Fitchburg State, Framingham State, Westfield State, Worcester State, and UMass Dartmouth.
The MASCAC tournament will be the first week in March, but the champion will not be eligible for an NCAA Tournament berth until its third season in 2011-12. PSU made 11 ECAC post-season appearances from 1986-2007.
2010-11 PSU Men’s Ice Hockey Outlook
The new arena and new coach has created a buzz in and around the Panther hockey program, and Coach Russell is eager to get started and take advantage of the energy on campus.
“Obviously we’re thrilled to be skating in such a beautiful new arena,” says Russell. “We’re excited for the student-athletes, but we’re also excited for the student body that can come and watch us play. It’s been a great addition to the campus.”
Russell says that because he’s been a member of the staff the past seven years, serving as head recruiter, the transition to a new head coach for the team has been seamless.
“It’s helped having over 20 guys back,” said Russell. “I think there was a comfort level on both sides, them with me and me with them. It’s been no big deal. They’re just very hungry, because with a year in the MASCAC under our belt, we know we can compete for the league championship.”
Russell says this year’s team should be balanced, with four solid lines on offense and strong depth on defense and in goal. The offense will have to make up for the loss of Chris Chambers, last year’s MASCAC Player of the Year who graduated as one of the leading scorers in school history.
“It’s tough to replace a scorer like him, but we have so many returning veterans and two of the new forwards are very dynamic, we shouldn’t have an adjustment period,” says Russell. “The goals should continue to come for us pretty regularly.”
Junior Bryan Kriner (Newport, R.I.) and senior Sean Buckley (Sagamore, Mass./Lawrence Academy) are the top returning scorers for the Panthers, Kriner finishing last season among the league’s scoring leaders with 17 goals and 15 assists and Buckley with 11 goals and 21 assists. Junior Chris Zaremba (Colorado Springs, Colo.) also reached double figures in both goals and assists (10-13-23) and senior Andrew Stewart (O’Leary, PEI) was third on the team with 17 assists. Russell says sophomore center Alex Cottle (West Chester, Pa.) may be the best of the bunch after coming on strong the second half of last season.
Sophomore Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.), a transfer from Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and freshman Travis Stevens (Montclair, Calif.), who is battling back from an injury, could also make impacts for the Panther offense.
The Panthers have their top four defensemen back from last season, led by sophomores Richie Zobak (Evergreen Park, Ill.) and JC Richardson (Fort Collins, Colo.). Zobak was named First Team All-Conference as a freshman last season and Richardson was also one of the top rookies in the league. PSU also has veteran leaders in seniors Dave Rose (Haddon Township, N.J.), Jake Curtin (Concord, N.H./Concord), and Bryan Horrigan (Brookfield, Wis.) on defense, giving the Panthers both talent and experience along the blue line.
Sophomore Jack Astedt (Angelholm, Sweden) has emerged as the starting goalie after “proving last year that he has what it takes to be a consistent starter,” says Russell. “He has shown improvement and we have confidence in him.” Freshman Tyler Ingerson (Concord, N.H.) is working hard as a back-up, and senior Erik Shields (Lebanon, Maine) is also a veteran on the bench.
“We have good chemistry with a lot of guys, with a lot of options on offense,” says Russell. “We have depth on defense and in the goal, so if we can be consistent, we should be able to contend for the title.”
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