Men's Hockey Looks to Start Strong in 2017-18

Men's Hockey Looks to Start Strong in 2017-18

CASTLETON, Vt. - Coming off a season in which it stormed into the New England Hockey Conference semifinals by going unbeaten in 12 of its last 14 games, the Castleton men's ice hockey team is ready to crank it up once again in the 2017-18 season.

Castleton will look to replicate its second-half success under second-year head coach Bill Silengo, who guided his team to a home playoff game last season for the first time in three years. The only team to defeat Castleton after the calendar flipped to January was eventual national champion, conference foe, and intrastate rival Norwich University.

"We need to have a strong start to the year," said Silengo. "Last year was great and we had a lot of success in the second half but the past is the past. We need to make sure we are ready out of the gates this season."

The Spartans will return 19 players from last year's squad that finished 11-10-6 overall, including many of which played an integral role in their torrid second-half run. 10 seniors highlight the veteran group, the program's most seniors since 2008-09.

"You win with your seniors and this year we have a great leadership group. Everyone has bought into what we are trying to do," said Silengo. "The underclassmen, especially our freshmen, are looking up to the veterans, so it's crucial the seniors are doing things the right way."

The leadership is anchored by a pair of four-year members of the squad – Kurt Johnson and Ryan Mulder – who have been named co-captains for the 2017-18 season. Johnson has racked up 25 points in his career and tallied five goals and five assists last season. Mulder returns as a three-year starter between the pipes and already holds the Castleton all-time saves record with 1,549 saves.

Castleton's offense will look to build on its 2.81 goals per game average last season, which was good for fifth in the NEHC. 14 forwards are listed on the 2017-18 roster, including senior assistant captain Trevor Hanna, who set a new career high with seven goals and 13 points last season.  Hanna enters his senior season as the Spartans' active scoring leader with 15 goals in 70 games played. Sophomore Otis Goldman is coming off a stellar freshman campaign in which he tallied eight goals and registered 11 points. Goldman led the team with three-game-winning goals – all against conference foes. Senior Ryan Smith will look to be an integral component to the Spartans' offense this season after reaching new career highs in goals (3), assists (8), and points (11) last season. Classmate Ryan O'Toole elevated his game against conference opponents last season as all 10 of his points (six goals, four assists) were registered in NEHC contests.

Silengo is thrilled to have a strong core of returners this season. "Our returning guys stepped in a did a great job last year. I think they have something to prove this year. I hope we play every game with a chip on our shoulder," said the second-year head coach.

Freshmen forwards include Dom Kuziak, Glenn Wiswell, Nick Gravina, and Ryan Ng. Kusiak led the Vermont Lumberjacks of the Eastern Hockey League in virtually every offensive category on his way to Most Valuable Player honors. Kuziak tallied an even 30 goals and 30 assists in 46 games played. Wiswell spent three years in the Eastern Hockey League and accumulated 101 career points while earning Second Team All-Star honors with 49 points on 22 goals and 27 assists for the 2016-17 East Coast Wizards.

At the blue line, the Spartans have eight defensemen, led by sophomore Troy Taylor, who was named to the NEHC All-Rookie Team last season after leading the Spartans with 13 assists and adding three goals for a total of 16 points. Sophomore Mark Shroyer will look to build off a strong debut season in which he posted four points on two goals and two assists. Three seniors are listed on the defensive unit, including assistant captain Jimmy Burns. The four-year Spartan was one of six players to suit up for all 27 games a season ago and leads all active players with 79 career games played. Senior Ryan O'Malley also brings veteran experience as he has played in 54 career games and recorded six points on a goal and five assists over three years. Nathan Cory appeared in 20 games as a junior and collected three assists.

Freshmen defenders looking to make a splash this season include Chris Butryn and Matt Bloomer, who both helped lead the Philadelphia Junior Flyers to an Eastern Hockey League title in 2016-17 season. Butryn collected 14 points on four goals and 10 assists in 59 games played, while Bloomer contributed two assists in 33 games played. The newcomers join a strong group of returners and will look to contribute to a defensive unit that ranked fifth in the conference with 2.59 goals allowed per game.

The Spartans return all three goaltenders from a season ago. Mulder leads the unit between the pipes with a .912 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average in 16 starts. Mulder claimed 10 of the team's 11 wins with 525 saves en route to his 10-6-5 overall record. The senior captain has a career 2.67 goals-against average and holds the program record with 1,549 career saves. Wyatt Pickrell started one game last season and posted the only Spartan shutout of the year with 17 saves in a 7-0 victory over St. Michael's. Brody Wagner has collected 315 saves in 11 career starts entering his senior season.  Freshman Luke Cohen enters the squad in 2017-18 and will look to bolster a strong core between the pipes.

Castleton, which was pre-ranked seventh out of eight teams in the NEHC Preseason Poll, is set for a tough slate this season with two games against No. 1 Norwich and two games against a new conference opponent, No. 10 Hobart. The Spartans will also face New England College three times and the Pilgrims are receiving votes in the USCHO national poll, along with perennial powerhouses Babson and UMass-Boston. With the season opener set for Saturday, Oct. 28, at Wentworth, Silengo has his team geared up to start the season.

"I am excited to see what we are made of this year. Our conference is the toughest and most competitive in college hockey and we need to bring it every night. Top to bottom it is a battle every game, so we need to make sure we're ready to compete."