Griffin Privitera (C), Tyler Gutierrez (A), and Mathew Sanchez (A) were named Captains earlier this week for the 2018-19 season.
Senior Griffin Privitera was named Captain, and senior Tyler Gutierrez and junior Mathew Sanchez were named Assistant Captains earlier this week to solidify the Ice Knights’ core leadership group going forward.
This year, as the program continues to transition, the team’s leadership is more critical than ever. With only 11 returning players (and just two seniors), the remainder of the team consists of mostly true freshmen attempting to navigate Rutgers for the first time. It’s up to the veterans on this team to help them adjust both on and off the ice.
Griffin Privitera enters his second year wearing the “C” on his jersey. Last season, he was also the team’s leading scorer during what was an especially tough year. Head Coach Joe Dickson has called him the most important player on this team. He does what he’s asked to do and then some.
Before the season began, we spoke about the new, younger faces in the locker room. Privitera 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. It’s a big impact having 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. I think the locker room definitely feels like there’s going to be no more of that losing culture.”
Does he feel any pressure?
“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 produced offensively last year, albeit not as much as he would have liked. Lately, because of an injury to the team’s defensive corps, he’s been playing as a defenseman instead of a forward, where he’s more comfortable, and he’s helped stabilize the back end. And this year is different but his approach to his role is the same.
He says, “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.”
Joining Privitera will be fellow senior Tyler Gutierrez and junior Mathew Sanchez. Gutierrez is the only other senior on this team and Head Coach Joe Dickson refers to him as the “social chair of this hockey club”.
Dickson said, “Gator [Gutierrez] going into this year was a big question mark for me. He had offseason ankle surgery, wasn’t sure if he was gonna come back and be what I thought he could be. Last year was a tough year for him, tough year for everybody. He bounced back really nicely from the ankle surgery and Tyler’s not the most skilled guy in the world but he plays hard and he’s very, very smart. He goes to the net, he does a lot of little things the right way, and he’s tough and he adds a little element to our game that we don’t have. He likes to talk, he likes to hit, he likes to get in the dirty areas, and for a team that is a little bit young, someone stepping up to do those things, I thought he’d be an excellent choice to be a leader on this team and so far, I think I made a very good choice.”
Gutierrez has no problem getting into the other team’s faces and stepping up for his teammates, and he’ll do all of it with the biggest smile on his face. When asked about the “A”, he says, “It’s my last year. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to win and just be vocal and let the young guys know what they have to do and just really get them in a comfort zone where they can perform at their highest.”
Gutierrez spent a lot of last season playing on the fourth line, tallying six points in 27 games, but it was a tough season for everyone. He says, “Last year, we were getting bullied and it wasn’t fun at all so this year, we know how the feeling was and we never wanna go through that again so we just take it one game at a time and focus on our next game.”
Both Privitera and Gutierrez will be graduating at the end of the year, which means Mathew Sanchez, who dons the other “A” will be taking on some extra responsibility. He says, ”Definitely means a lot to me [wearing the “A”]. It’s a good group of guys to represent and help lead with Griffin and Tyler. I think we have a pretty strong bond together already. It’s almost close to a family, what we have, so it’s nice to be helping lead that because it is a good group of guys.”
Dickson says, “Matt is a quiet, quiet-type leader. He goes out and just performs and goes hard every single shift. Not a big vocal guy in the locker room but I don’t need that with Griffin and Tyler and some other guys that don’t wear letters that are also leaders on the team. I don’t need him to be the vocal leader. He’s the lead by example kinda guy and he was my first choice over the summer to be a leader on this team and so far, he’s performed very well for me on and off the ice, leadership-wise and playing-wise. He’s been very good for us.”
Leading by example is something Sanchez gets described as doing quite a bit, no matter who you ask; even he says, “We’re trying to push them as hard as we can. We try to go as hard as we can in practice and I think they kinda see that and I’m trying to lead by example just like everybody else so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Sanchez tallied nine points in 27 games played for the club last season. He says, “I think you learn more from your losses and we had a lot of losses so I think we learned a lot from our mistakes. We also played a lot of tough competition so we saw what the good teams are doing and we’re trying to do that this year.”
The composition of the team is different this season. They’re faster, younger, and more energetic. They need leaders in the locker room to help them out and take them under their wings, and Joe Dickson sums up that sentiment pretty well: “We have the serious captain in Privitera, the lead-by-example guy in Sanchez, and the pest in Gutierrez, and I think it’s a really good combination of captains right now and leadership for this team that needs a direction. It’s a different team, it’s a different dynamic, and they fit that dynamic very well.”