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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Beacons Ice Hockey Poised for a Run

When the Beacons step onto Colby College’s ice November 21 and kick off a new season of much-anticipated UMass Boston hockey, it will be 267 days of eagerness transformed into sixty minutes of brutality on the ice.

On March 8, 2008, the Beacons faced off against number-one seed Norwich University with a spot in the ECAC East Finals on the line. Attendance was 2,150 at Kreitzberg Arena. It was a raucous atmosphere. The Beacons lost the game, 5-2.

Since that March 9 loss, every returner has been waiting for Opening Night to arrive so they could get back on the ice and continue re-growing UMass Boston’s budding hockey program.

Now that day is creeping up and, like the invasive bamboo plant, the Beacons are growing fast and strong from their roots up.

The roots (i.e. backbone) of any hockey team is the goaltending. Just like in baseball where you’re only as good as your starting pitching, in hockey, you’re only as good as your goaltending. And in junior Ryan Donovan, ECAC East’s 2007-08 Goalie of the Year, the Beacons may have the best back bone in the conference.

Belisle said over the summer Donovan worked hard on his athleticism and came back to school “tall, thin and quick,” exactly how he wants his goalie. Surprising Belisle more though was second-string goalie Chris Testa, a senior, who showed up “in the best shape of his life,” he said.

“Now we have Testa pushing Donovan a little bit. These two kids are the hardest working guys on the team and thank God because it’s the most important position.”

Working from between the pipes up to the blue line, where Belisle specializes (“I’ll teach them defense. Ill teach them the grit, the determination,” he said), the defense becomes deeper than last year, with newcomers Wayne Sands, Brian Marks and Bill Baker added to the mix, among others.

Sands has shown the most promise this preseason, especially in his offensive game. In the Atlantic Junior Hockey League last year, Sands was the leading scorer among defensemen. Belisle and junior team captain Kris Kranzky think he will be an integral power play component this season. “He’s definitely going to be a huge help on the power play, just the way he moves the puck and the way he can get shots in the net,” Kranzky said. “He’s going to be a big impact player, definitely.”

Marks, a freshman from the Central Junior ‘A’ Hockey League, is a “mean blue-liner” and “just a tough, tough competitor,” said Belisle. He will add depth to a defensive core led by junior Steve Ebbole and sophomores Brett Calhoun and Ryan Huggett, three players with at least one season of experience in the ECAC East.

Belisle said he was worried that Baker’s height (6′ 6″) would be an issue, since many of the ECAC East’s forwards are small and quick, but he has been impressed with Baker’s reach and his ability to move the puck.

With the defense improved, Belisle and assistant coach Jeff Pellegrini attracted what they hope will be legitimate secondary scoring options behind the big three of Kris Kranzky, Matt Atsoff and Eric Tufman, a member of ECAC East’s All-Rookie team. The trio accounted for 100 points (47 goals, 53 assists) last season, a milestone only three other ECAC East trios reached.

Chris Wyman, an Eastern Junior Hockey League All-star, potted 23 goals last season for the Valley Junior Warriors and Kranzky thinks he will “definitely do some damage up here.” Belisle also likes what he sees from the 5′ 9″ forward early on.

Kranzky believes that if someone can consistently feed freshman Dan Styrna the puck in the slot, he’s going to put it in the back of the net more often than not. “His shot is…ridiculous,” he said. “It’s so hard and he just puts it where he wants it every time. He’ll get a lot of goals this year.” Said Belisle: “He can really fire it and he can really fly.”

Another AJHL guy, Kyle Tejchma, has impressed everyone around him. Both Kranzky and Belisle said great things about his work ethic and his endless motor on the ice. “He’s a little stick of dynamite,” Belisle said. “He’s in your face, he’s like a gnat, he’s everywhere. He’s perfect for that penalty killing, energy line role.” Kranzky loved the work ethic he brought to the ice. “He just outworks everyone, which is good to have on the team. He makes everyone else work harder.”

Anthony Fitti, who came from the AJHL as well, has “some of the nicest hands on the team,” according to Belisle. He just needs to work harder on the defensive end, and he could end up on the second line, as well as see some time on the power play.

The freshmen have the potential; it’s just a matter of those skill sets transferring onto the ice when game one rolls around. “That adjustment period for these young kids is gonna be huge,’ Belisle said.

“If they can adjust quick, we’re gonna be in good shape. If it takes them a long time to adjust, then we’re gonna be relying on our returners, which is fine because I think we have a great core nucleus, but we’re not gonna be as good as I hoped.”

Ryan Thomas can be reached at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Ryan Thomas served as the sports editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2007-2008; 2008-2009