Facing a one goal deficit and only one minute left in regulation, the NYU hockey team traded its goalie for an extra skater in an effort to force overtime and keep the possibility to compete in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League Championship alive. However, the empty-net strategy did not pay off before time expired and the team’s postseason run ended in a 3-2 downfall against eventual ESCHL runner-up SUNY Stony Brook.
The semifinal loss marked the end of the program’s first season of Division I competition and lost the Violets a qualifying spot in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I National Championships. Although the team fell short of expectations, the coaches and players viewed the season as a learning experience and a good opportunity to adjust the new level of competition.
Entering the season, the team said it had the same expectations for success as it had in the Division II ranks. However, the 2015 and 2017 ACHA Division II national champions faced greater challenges at the Division I level such as tighter games against deeper rosters and limited scoring opportunities.
Head Coach Chris Cosentino further stressed the importance of consistently securing wins against tougher competition.
“The biggest thing we learned this year is how hard it is to win at this level and how important it is to respect the process,” Cosentino said. “You need to be prepared to work hard, take advantage of opportunities and be disciplined every night. Consistency was a big issue with this young group.”
CAS sophomore and defenseman Giancarlo Pochintesta said understanding the dynamic of Division I competition allowed the team to establish itself in the second half of the season and develop expectations that will serve as the groundwork come fall.
“Looking back on this year, it was those first few weekends that came back to haunt us in terms of national rankings,” Pochintesta said. “I think that we now understand the type of effort and consistency we have to play with from September through March and we will go into next season better prepared.”
In preparing for the 2018-2019 season, Cosentino said the team will focus on improving its special teams and physical discipline in order to take advantage of the limited opportunities that exist in terms of time and space at the Division I level.
“Both our power play and penalty kill need to be much better next season,” Cosentino said. “Plus, we need to be more prepared to compete for 60 minutes every night. We had stretches this year where we took the foot off the gas for parts of a game that came back to bite us.”
Assistant coach Spencer Varney said that the team will also work on strengthening its transition game in terms of breakouts and neutral zone containment both on special teams and at full strength.
“The competition will make you pay if you turn the puck over and give them time and space,” Varney said in a phone interview with WSN. “We want to instill [in] the team more options and more opportunities in transition to be faster and work as a unit.”
Both Cosentino and Varney said that the Violets will be playoff competitors next season thanks to the new leadership that will replace Calvin Burkhart, Michael Conslato, Charles Arsenescu and Steven Esposito, all of whom set the standard for the program’s rising talent.
One player to watch in the coming season is forward Scott Mulligan. The SPS sophomore scored the game-winning goal of the 2017 National Championship as a freshman and netted three overtime goals and a deciding shootout goal in his sophomore campaign. According to Coach Varney, Mulligan is expected to continue his instrumental role as a leading scorer for the Violets.
Coach Varney said the team will return to the Chelsea Piers Sky Rink in the fall as a more disciplined squad with expectations set on nothing less than winning the ACHA Division I National Championship.
A version of this article appeared in the March, 5 print edition. Email Warner Radliff at [email protected]