BY ANASTASIA MONTAVON
Last year, St. Norbert’s men’s hockey team won the Division III National Championship. This made it the fourth time in seven years that the club captured the title.
Naturally, the stakes are high as the Green Knights enter the season with hopes of back-to-back championships and a target on their backs. So what’s the key to their success? What do they do to improve?
“Our success is a combination of a lot of things,” veteran winger Mason Baptista, ’15 said. According to Baptista, it all starts with head coach Tim Coglin, who has the bench boss since 1993. And of course, the players themselves have worked extremely hard to maintain the program’s great winning legacy.
The players sweat it out in the off season, with the understanding that they need to be in top physical condition before the season starts. But simply being fit isn’t good enough. “I focused on the little things that make hockey players successful,” Baptista said. “Skating, taking shots from different angles, stick handling, knowing systems, what other teams like to do, etc.”
Coming off the championship, the team realizes they’re going to be hunted. “Everybody plays like it’s the Stanley Cup final when going up against a top team in the nation,” newly added defenseman Chris Rygus, ’18, said. “We might be the favorites to win this year, but we try and view ourselves as the underdogs. Every week we have to prove ourselves because teams have us circled on their calendars,” Rygus added.
On October 25th, the team scrimmaged with the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s men’s hockey team behind closed doors in Madison. The game ultimately ended in a tie, with a final score of 3-3. “We performed really well as a team,” Baptista said. “We stuck to the system, everyone played their role. We played at the same level [Madison] played at.”
“We came into the game fresh out of practices, whereas they had been four games into the regular season,” Rygus said.
When asked if he thinks the team could improve on anything, Baptista noted that the defensive zone needs some work. The team, built on a defensive mentality, played a little out of character against the Badgers. There were some breakdowns defensively in Madison. But these mistakes could also just be chalked up to early season rust.
Ultimately, when it all comes down to it, they’re students first. “Now that I am here on campus, I look forward to becoming part of the winning culture, while also furthering my own personal development as not only a player, but as a student,” Rygus said.
“I think people misunderstand the hockey team,” Baptista said. “They think we’re cocky, arrogant, and non-approachable. [The team] wants to be there for SNC. We don’t want to be known as the hockey guys. We want to support causes like Dance Marathon,” Baptista concluded.
While it’s too soon to tell if St. Norbert will repeat, based on the program’s character and focus they have as good a shot as ever.