By Keotta House
The Saint Mary’s University men’s hockey team is drawing to a close its pre-season mindset and gearing up for its first game against the University of St. Thomas on Saturday, Oct. 29.
“It’s just that fine line between being a contender and being a rebuilding program and we were still rebuilding last year,” Head Coach Bill Moore said.
“This year we are very excited and we have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs with the guys we have back and the new freshmen this year.”
Last season was a learning process for the team, as there were over 15 freshmen starters throughout the season, said Moore. Now, the team is intact and ready.
Said senior captain Vince Unklesbay, “We only lost two players last year, so we are a much more experienced team this year and we will be better at both gaining leads in games and holding onto them.”
Unklesbay, who switched positions last year from forward to defense, said the transition is going well. “There are many aspects of [my defense] that need work, but overall I think it is going well, and I work to improve every day.”
There is one line in particular SMU fans and opponents should watch for, according to Captain Tom Healy.
“The Kevin Wentland, Austin Balko and Chase Marshall line really took off toward the end of last season, and I am looking forward to seeing them together again,” said Healy.
The Wentland, Balko and Marshall line put up a total of 22 goals, 32 assists, and 54 total points last season.
“Wentland is focused and ready to go this season,” said Healy. “I think we all are just ready to go.” The hockey team is centered around the chemistry between teammates this year. “For the most part our team chemistry is very good right now and it is part of the reason why we are excited about this season,” said Moore.
Moore believes this chemistry will translate into performance on the ice.
“Playing hard for each other and not just for yourself, that’s team chemistry and team unity, and I think we have that now,” said Moore.
The team has high hopes for itself both on and off the ice. They not only want to make the playoffs, but Coach Moore has additional goals for the team.
“My goal is to make sure [the team] is respectful to everyone on campus and respectful to their education,” said Moore. “I want to make sure they meet a cumulative 3.0 [GPA], get 20 or more players on the academic dean’s list and do more than 500 hours of community service.”
“Your education, your experience, and your integrity build character, and that’s what I preach. We’re crossing our fingers that that comes along with winning; then our program will be where we want it to be.”