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Eastern forward Corey Jenks (5) looks on as his Colonel teammates compete with Xavier at the Lexington Ice Center. DAN KLAPHEKE/PROGRESS


By ALEX BARBER
progress@eku.edu

The Eastern Ice Hockey team opened its season this past weekend, going 1-1 in two matches against the Xavier Musketeers.

Eastern (1-1) lost its season opener on the road against Xavier 6-2 on Friday, Sept. 18, but came up with a huge 8-4 win in Lexington during its home opener against the Musketeers a night later on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Eastern forwards Austin Roman and Corey Jenks both scored a goal apiece during the road loss to Xavier.

“We can hang with them, but we just had bad luck strike us,” said Eastern captain Andrew Briggs. “That ultimately cost us.”

After the loss on Friday night, Eastern was ready to redeem itself against the Musketeers on Saturday. The Colonels fed off the energy from a loud crowd and cruised to a quick 3-0 start, never looking back.

Eastern will travel to Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio for its next game on Friday, Sept. 25, and then rebound with Wittenberg at home on Saturday, Sept. 26. Eastern home hockey games are held at the Lexington Ice Center at midnight.

Midnight games are exciting to play and helps the Eastern hockey team stand apart from other colleges, especially when they bring wild fans. The reason behind why games are played at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays is due to the director of operations at the Lexington Ice Center. The director chooses to host the games at midnight, rather than moving public skate times.

The hockey team is a student run organization, which means it does not receive any funds from the school. The team does try to earn some funds from the Student Government Association. Overall, the players pay fees and hold fundraisers to raise money. The hockey team has run smoothly by doing this, and is looking forward to growing as a team and gaining popularity on campus. Without students with a burning desire for a hockey team at Eastern, this organization wouldn’t have existed.

But they need to start winning games. In the past it used to be more about just having fun with a group of friends that all had a hockey addiction. This kind of attitude resulted in the team not winning many games. Now, the team has a new mindset and is wanting to prove to other teams that it can hang in there with the big dogs like the University of Kentucky. The Colonel ice hockey team is hungry for a winning season that they have been long searching for.

The hockey team does have a lot of good things going for them, but also face challenges that will make it interesting to see as the season unfolds.

One of the good things that the hockey team has going for it is Head Coach Joel Cormier, who teaches sports management at Eastern. Cormier is able to set a fire under his players with memorable speeches that bring a lot of intensity and gets the team hyped up. Cormier gets the team ready for each opponent by focusing on what his team needs to improve on each and every day.

Cormier’s assisted by Jared Smith. The team has not had in an assistant coach in three years, but Smith brings a lot of experience to the table. Smith has worked with the New York Rangers, a National Hockey League team. During that time, Smith assisted the general manger and the scouting team for the Rangers.

Having someone with league experience can provide a lot of helpful insight, as well as help keep the team moving forward. Smith will be able to spot and fix players techniques. Having an assistant will also help take some of the pressure off Cormier. Smith can strictly focus on the defensive players, instead of Cormier shouldering the entire work load.

“Jared has already proved his loyalty to me in the past and he has already made an positive impact on this team,” Cormier said.

The captain and the assistant captains for this team will help carry each player in the right direction, which hopefully will translate into wins. The captain is Briggs and the assistant captains are Eric Jones and Brian O’Loughlin. These captains have the qualities a team needs in its captains. They’re reliable, responsible for their actions, and they are able to show their leadership by example.

Something that the team has long been waiting for is to have depth at each position. The team brought in nine new quality players this year. In hockey, a team can only dress 20 players. This includes two goalies, six defensemen, and 12 forwards. In the past the team always had a thin roster. Now with its depth, the team can rest their top players.

With all the positives and negatives that will make for an interesting season. The Colonels will undoubtedly face a few challenges. One becoming mentally tough, especially when the season hits a rough patch, is a major focus this season for the assistant coach.

“We just need to keep our heads up when we get down,” Smith said. “When they get rolling Joel knows what the team needs. We just can’t be satisfied.”