As the 2018-19 season gets underway this weekend against Villanova for the D1 Ice Knights, they have big goals in mind for the season as the program continues to build.
The Rutgers Ice Knights are in a new conference for the 2018-19 season, the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League (NECHL), with the regular season getting underway this weekend against Villanova. They will be joining the University of Buffalo, Canisius College, Cornell University, Cortland State, Niagara University, Oswego State, and RIT, each of whom they will face twice this season. They will open conference play when they host Cortland on September 28th and 29th at ProSkate Ice Arena.
The team has a good blend of both returning players and new faces (over a dozen) as the program continues to rebuild and transition. Captain Griffin Privitera knows that it’s up to him and the other veterans to help out. He says, “It’s important for the upperclassmen to teach them the ways and go about things and that when you’re at the rink, it’s a business and I think that’s the best way to do it. There’s 14 freshmen so they’re gonna be taking over after this year.”
He continues, “I think it’s a big impact having 14 or 15 new guys. They’re all going to be fighting for their spots and it builds a competition in our locker room and I think everyone has a better energy overall.”
The veterans are trying to foster a different culture in the locker room this season as the program transitions. Even though the team has just two seniors, the underclassmen will take over at the end of the season and will continue to foster the culture developing inside and out of the locker room. How they handle themselves on and off the ice is important. How they continue to develop on and off the ice is important. And as soon as the season starts, they’ll be thrown into the lineup and will compete for those open spots.
Head Coach Joe Dickson says, “My expectation for these kids is to come in and compete right away for playing time. This group that we’re going to have, I believe, will be able to jump into our lineup and contribute immediately. I’m looking at eight freshmen to jump into our everyday lineup and day one, be up to speed and contribute.”
The new guys are young, fast, and exciting to watch, and they will have to step up. With the graduation of goaltender Chris Marsillo, sophomore Chris Fiorillo will take over in net alongside newcomers Brandon Schellin and Gian Tricarico. Last season, Fiorillo played in four games and held a 2-0 record with a 3.21 goals against average and .912 save percentage; he played one of his best games in a 4-3 overtime win against Navy, making 41 saves.
Rutgers will also work on overhauling the defense in front of them. They added a new assistant coach in Pete Rossi. Dickson says, “Pete’s a good guy. He is a fantastic junior coach, a very good skills coach, and he’s really gonna help us out in the defensive end this year. He’s gonna help overhaul our defense and do a lot of skills work with our freshman players and help build them and bring them along. Very excited to have him on the staff.”
Of the returning players, Dickson discusses defensemen Sean Lippincott and Cole Asroff, who are both poised to have big sophomore seasons and freshman Brian Frister: “Brian Frister is a freshman defenseman that’s coming in that I have high hopes for. He’s a talented junior player and should help quarterback our power play and being our #2, 3 defenseman would really help stabilize us. Also, Sean Lippincott is back and I’m looking for huge things out of him as our #1 defenseman. He’s a minutes-eater for us. I’m gonna rely on those two a lot this year and Cole Asroff, another returning player, I have very high expectations for.”
Lippincott, especially, will be taking on a much bigger role as the team’s #1 defenseman. As a freshman, he played in all 27 games and tallied the game-winning goal in a shootout against West Chester. He’s poised to help stabilize the defense and have a strong sophomore season.
Leading the way up front is Captain and senior forward Griffin Privitera (who led the team in scoring last season), along with several other veterans like Joe DeLandro: “Griffin Privitera is gonna be the key to our team. He’s the leader. He leads by example on and off the ice, and I expect him to have a very, very, very good year along with Joe DeLandro. Very important junior year for him. I expect him to take a big stride points-wise this year compared to his previous two years. He’s a lot more mature now and I’m expecting him to not have a good year but a huge year for us.”
Privitera knows there’s pressure. He says, “I think there’s pressure on me just because I gotta set an example for these 15 guys and the rest of the team and I gotta be able to produce this year and there’s some pressure but it doesn’t really affect me much.” He adds, “The first year as captain, you’re trying to learn some things about how to lead and feel the players out and what will work to get through to them. I think that’s important but I think I’ve always been a pretty good leader and vocal guy so I think I usually figure out how to get into the team’s minds and get them thinking and get them working hard.”
And they will have to work very hard if they’re going to achieve their main goal this season: nationals or bust. Privitera states, “My expectations this year are to win the new league that we’re in and win nationals, and I think anything less than that is a pretty big disappointment."
Dickson adds, “My expectations for this season are through the roof. If we don’t make nationals, I am going to be crushed.”