The recruiting moves are done, for the most part, and all Patriot League teams are now preparing for the spring season. For those first year players and parents, this is the toughest part of being a division one athlete. The training will be intense but the reward will be playing time in spring games. Most of the “games” will be all day affairs against multiple teams. Coaches typically move players around and experiment with new formations and combinations. The NCAA dictates time and the number of competitions. We all can be assured there will be a lot of hockey played and a lot fitness involved.
The new recruits will not participate unless they are designated “grey shirts,” those who are qualified and graduate early from high school and enroll at their college for the spring semester. It is a rare designation but it does happen. Current seniors have finished their careers, but could still participate if needed to fill a roster. Those underclassmen who had a rough academic fall semester may not participate depending on local school rules. Likewise, those with injuries may be held out to continue their rehabilitation.
Additional recruits could be added depending on availability. Foreign athletes are more likely to commit late, so additional names to Lafayette, American and Boston could happen as late as June.
Let’s look at the Patriot League as it stands now. Things may change after an active spring or the addition of a spectacular recruit. At the moment, I believe our Leopards are in good shape. We are returning veteran players in key positions. It is the first time in my memory the Leopards will have a returning all American ( Lisa van der Geest), and the return of another all league player in Caroline Turnbull and the rookie of the year in Molly MacAndrews. In addition, there are several team members who were sidelined by injury for much of last season, who will undoubtably make important contributions. What also encourages me is the last part of the fall season, when the Leopards seemed to find their stride. The only disappointment was the last regular season game with Bucknell. Perhaps there were undisclosed distractions. However, their playoff performance at Boston shows me they are ready to compete.
To my mind, this team is ready to compete for a title. It is no slam dunk and there are issues to be faced, no doubt, but they are as ready and as talented as any team in the league. The spring will be telling.
How has the rest of league fared? It is populated by talented coaches who have proven their ability to win. Boston in particular will be fighting for that NCAA spot again, and American is always a threat, despite losing key personnel to graduation. I was particularly impressed with Boston’s recruits which will complement their returning players nicely. Bucknell loses a lot of senior talent but their coach always finds a way to have his team ready. We will play them in Easton next year. Is this the year Lehigh makes a move? It is possible we will be facing Lehigh at their place in our last league game and their ten recruits will be ready for Lafayette. Lehigh seems to measure their season by a successful outing against Lafayette. We need to be ready for a tough game. American is always competitive but I don’t see changes that make them stand out. We will meet them in DC, and an early win there to add to our win last year would be a big plus. Colgate and Holy Cross are question marks for me and since we play them at home I am hoping for a W. The League will be better and I see more out of conference wins from everyone. The out of conference play should be an indicator of overall strength. I always root for a Patriot League team in out of conference play as it helps everyone’s RPI. Given our experience and talent, it is not unreasonable for us to have a wining record going into league play.
I am really looking forward to a productive spring. I have not received the spring schedule and will let you know when that is available. If anyone knows it at this point give me shout out!!!
There is a movement to change rules to conform more to the international game. I expect the college game will move to 4 quarters next year with the clock stopping at corners. It won’t happen next year, but look for instant replay challenges to be mandatory at all division one sites. At the moment, all NCAA tournament games mandate it, as does the ACC and Big Ten. I am told by the Lafayette Administration, the change for instant replay, given the improved technology, is NOT cost prohibitive.