Tyler Sikura '15 continues to shine in sophomore campaign
In only his second year at Dartmouth, Tyler Sikura '15 has established himself as one of the cornerstones of the men's hockey team on and off the ice. The Aurora, Ont. native came off a dominant freshman season during which he tied for the team lead with 25 points with 11 goals and 14 assists and was one of only five players on the team to dress for all 33 games.
In the early weeks of his sophomore campaign, Sikura has picked up where he left off, compiling three goals and four assists in just four games while centering the team's top line with Matt Lindblad '14 and Eric Neiley '15 on the wings.
"He's the center of our line, so he's the most important guy on every play defensively or offensively," Neiley said.
The first unit, which was grouped together last January, has played a crucial role in the Big Green's best start in nearly a decade. Dartmouth is 3-0-1 on the season and 2-0-0 in the ECAC.
"He came in right away and produced, which is something not a lot of first-year guys can do," Lindblad said. "It gave us a lot of confidence in our younger guys."
Sikura first became interested in Dartmouth after playing in hockey camps in Minnesota with assistant coach John Rose. An offer to join the Big Green followed quickly during his first season with the Newmarket Hurricanes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he was rated as one of the best passers and stick handlers in the league.
"It's a big adjustment because everybody coming in was the top-level of players on their juniors team," Sikura said of his transition from junior league to college. "In terms of hockey sense, in college everybody is a lot quicker."
Early in his time at Dartmouth, Sikura found himself struggling with the academic aspect of college but found support in his teammates. This season, he has taken a leadership role helping the younger players through the difficulties he faced as a freshman.
"It's definitely an adjustment period to get back into school work," Sikura said. "It helps to have a big class of guys, and we all help each other out."
The impact of Sikura's addition to the team was felt immediately, and his initial success was fueled by a combination of factors.
"He's a very smart player on the ice, and his hockey IQ really helped him fit in with how we play," head coach Bob Gaudet said. "He's also a tall lanky guy with a good reach and is very crafty with the puck."
Sikura's line broke out in the team's 7-4 win over Yale University on Friday. The line combined for four goals, including two by Sikura, who also contributed two assists.
"Tyler brings a little bit of everything," Lindblad said. "He's an energy guy and provides a lot of spark to the lineup, but he can also score and make plays."
Through the first four games, the team is led by its top line, which has accounted for just under 50 percent of the team's points, making it a nightmare for opposing defensemen. Sikura attributed the early success to his linemates Lindblad and Neiley.
"Neiley creates a lot and has the goal-scoring touch, and Lindblad is the seeing eyes who can find you in all situations," Sikura said. "The options make it confusing for defenders and gives you space you wouldn't have otherwise."
Gaudet said that Sikura improved in the offseason with additional training that has brought more physicality to Sikura's game.
"He is much bigger and stronger this year, so his role and level of play have increased that much more, and he's now really able to fight for loose pucks," Gaudet said. "I also like Tyler because he's a very low maintenance player. His whole game is about excellence, and he does his best in the weight room and on the ice in practice and games. He's a very honest, intense competitor."
Anyone who watches Sikura on the ice can immediately recognize his comfort with the game. Sikura is always in motion and couples the movement with a devastating shot that leads to much of his offensive success.
"He's a guy with a great release," Gaudet said. "He tends to pull the puck into his body, and he's a tough guy for goalies to read because he's moving and the puck is moving and he often shoots it before the goalie realizes it."
In addition to his skill on the ice, his teammates frequently mentioned his relaxed demeanor off the ice as one of his greatest attributes.
"He has a good attitude and is a fun guy to be around who loves hanging out with the boys," Neiley said.
Sikura also keeps the mood relaxed in the locker room with an unusual ritual. Sikura always gets dressed from the top down, which often results in the awkward situation of having to tie his skates with gloves on. The center attributes the ritual to general hockey-player superstition.
While helping the Big Green continue its current success remains Sikura's number one priority, he holds on to the hope of one day making it to the National Hockey League.
"Right now, we're having a lot of success as a team, and I'd like to be a part of and contribute to that as much as possible," Sikura said. "[Playing in the NHL] has also always been a dream of mine, so it would be awesome to ride that as far as I can."
Sikura and his teammates will next take the ice on Friday against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at home at 7 p.m.