New coach, new league for club hockey
The Seton Hall club hockey program is set to begin a new chapter ahead of the 2014-15 season, which will open with a pair of home games, Friday against George Washington and Saturday, hosting Holy Cross.
The makeover for the Pirates starts behind the bench with new head coach, Gary Biggs. The former goaltending coach with TCNJ will run the Hall’s program and is looking to “elevate” it this year.
“I’m trying to rebuild the whole thing to get on par with other teams in the conference,” he said. “I’m coming from TCNJ—a good program that knows how to win titles. That’s what I’m trying to bring to Seton Hall.”
Joining Biggs’ staff will be Scott Rothlisberger, the recent graduate from TCNJ and defensemen played last season under Biggs’ staff. He will assume the assistant coach role, helping with the team’s defensive group, that’s headlined by sophomore Bryan Nagy and junior Charles Tobias. The pair highlights the team’s defensive group that looks promising heading into the season. The two will also be tasked with eating minutes to help compensate with the loss of former club captain and defenseman Alex Manners, who graduated in May.
Assuming the role of captaincy will be the duo of senior forwards Jeff Kuper and Carl Meixsell. The two will serve as co-captains. Sophomore Bryan Nagy will also serve as an assistant captain.
Last season’s head coach, Brian Connor leaves the on-ice side of things as he assumes a new role with Seton Hall athletics. He will remain involved with the program in the position of general manager.
Other changes to the staff include, graduate assistants Travis Tosoni, who will handle game day operations for the club and Colin Mayberry, whose new incorporation of a stats program is showing that it’s not only the professionals who are using advanced stats.
On the ice, Biggs has called his group “blue collar” and expects his squad to be a physical one.
“We’re a hard working hockey team,” he said. “We’re going to capitalize on team’s mistakes, and wear them out by being physical.”
Already, the coach says he has liked the body of work from his group heading into the regular season. “They continue to work hard every day, and getting better day-by-day,” he said.
He admitted that the team may need to slow things down in games as they are not the fleetest of foot, but believes the physicality and positioning of the team can help define the team and grind out the wins needed to be competitive.
This year’s group will welcome several newcomers to the team including freshman Charles Mul of Toms River, N.J., the forward has already garnered the coach’s attention earning a spot on the team’s top line and power play. Sophomore Rob Harrison suited up last season for the club, but saw limited action. Biggs believes Harrison will be a player to watch this season, alongside the newcomer in Mule.
In the crease the club returns with Zack Peras who will be the starting net minder in the team’s opener on Friday. The Farmingdale, N.J.,-native will be backed up by freshman Brian Uzzo.
While there will be some returning faces to this season’s squad, the program has taken on a new identity—even entering a new conference, as it will now compete as members of the Colonial States College Hockey conference, but also will look to change its fortunes, says Biggs.
“I fully expect that we’re going to have an over .500 season,” he said. “I see the potential, there’s no reason why shouldn’t be in the top half of the conference. I fully expect us to make a strong playoff run. Everyone is buying into making a strong run this year.”
The men’s club hockey team will look to start a new era this weekend as they take on George Washington Friday night at 9:45 p.m. at the Richard Codey Arena in West Orange. The team will return Saturday night at 8:30 p.m., to host Holy Cross.