Men on a Mission: '02s Ready for Anything
The Dartmouth men's hockey team has been anxiously waiting for this season to start since last year's trip to the ECAC Tournament in Lake Placid.
After an exciting and successful campaign last year, the team is back on the level it belongs in college hockey. Without a doubt the men have the tools to bring home an ECAC Championship trophy this year and a NCAA Tournament bid along with it.
Much of the merit that comes with the team's newfound success can be placed on the shoulders of the current senior class. The '02s were brought in their freshman year to resurrect a once-great program and have accomplished just that. But the story of the Class of 2002 is far from finished.
"This class is very special to me," head coach Bob Gaudet said. "The guys had the self confidence and faith to believe that they could come in to a program that had struggled and make a difference."
His team doesn't want to hear about national rankings and how they match up on paper with their opponents. Instead, it all comes down to what happens on the ice. Respect and recognition will come as a result of work ethic.
By and large, the seniors don't want to hear about their "last season" or "the end of the road" either. It isn't a priority. There is too much yet to be accomplished to worry about nostalgia.
"We have a few goals that we haven't yet attained," senior forward Frank Nardella said.
"We would like nothing more than to have an ECAC championship banner for Dartmouth raised to the rafters in Lake Placid."
Since their freshman year the mission has been clear, and for the seniors their time is now. They accept that challenge with open arms and slap shots blazing.
This core group of eight forwards creates one of the best combined scoring threats in the nation with both speed and skill. Yes, that's right--the nation.
This group places born goal scorers like captain Mike Maturo next to the puck handling skills and awareness of Jamie Herrington.
It also combines the punishing physical presence and sharp shooting in Chris Taliercio with Frank Nardella's finesse and sneakiness in the offensive zone.
Chris Baldwin's speed has complemented the composure of Craig Lund. Highlighted by the intense work ethics of Dan Casella and Gary Hunter, these eight seniors create the perfect compliment to each other both on and off the ice.
"We are a tight-knit group. Every one of [us] brings something else to the tableWe have a unique chemistry together," Casella said.
The seniors pride themselves on the family atmosphere they have created in the locker room and away from the ice.
"It has meant a great deal to be able to play with such gifted hockey players," Hunter added. "I have never been involved with a better group of guys than this team."
Next year will bring many different opportunities for these seniors from possible NHL tryouts to the Peace Corps. However, regardless of their future plans, the present is what matters--Dartmouth green, a pair of skates and their fans.
"We look to have great support from our fans like we did last year. We will not disappoint," Maturo said.
Get excited, this is the beginning of the resurgence of Dartmouth hockey. The future has been made bright thanks to this senior group of believers.
With all the groundwork in place, only time will tell where the team will be next March. But if you ask the players, it is crystal clear.
"If you want to know how good we are going to be, you better show up at Thompson on Friday and Saturday nights from now till March cause there is definitely going to be a show put on by our team," Herrington said.
Look out ECAC, game on.