By Kirk Jessome
Looking to continue on the progress made last season, the men’s hockey team looked very promising coming into the 2018-19 season.
Second-year forwards of Andrew Shewfelt and Jonathan Cyr led the charge offensively for the Tigers, scoring eight goals apiece, while rookie Connor Welsh put together a spectacular season as an offensive-defenceman to finish with 19 points in 29 games.
A trio of rookie goaltenders split time in nets, with Reilly Pickard and Connor Hicks logging most of the minutes. In a very tough conference for goaltenders, these two young goalies combined for the most total saves made in the conference with 591 and 524, respectively.
Tigers head coach Chris Donnelly praised his goaltenders and has high hopes for their future with the team.
“All three guys brought a tremendous amount of professionalism and unbelievable work ethic to the rink every day,” says Donnelly. “With Corbin Boes graduating last year, goaltending was a big concern going into the season. Fortunately, we were able to turn that concern into a major building block for our program.”
After starting the regular season with a win over Acadia, the Tigers went on a cold stretch in the month of October. They regrouped in November with wins over UPEI, Moncton and StFX and finished the first half of the season with a 4-13 record.
The winter break did the team well, as they started the second half of the season with back-to-back wins that featured a 35-save shutout by Hicks for another win against the X-Men.
After the win over the X-Men, another losing skid put the Tigers playoff hopes in jeopardy. They dropped eight games in a row, before one final push with a big 4-1 win over Saint Mary’s at the beginning of February, but a loss to UPEI in the second-last game of the season officially eliminated the Tigers from playoff contention.
When Donnelly looks at what was needed to secure that final playoff spot, the statistics don’t lie.
“It’s not difficult to see that we rank last in goals-for in our league. We needed to score more goals and develop our offensive game. In particular, increasing puck possession would certainly lead to more success for our team.”
Looking ahead to next season, that point will be the major focus for Donnelly’s team.
“In order to climb up in the standings and achieve playoff success, we have to continue to develop our offensive game and recruit players who have the skill set to execute at a high-level of play. Our place in the standings would look dramatically different if we scored just one more goal per game.”
As a young team, Tigers will have plenty of time to improve cohesiveness and develop together as a group. With the team’s top three scorers in just their first or second seasons as well as an impressive duo between the pipes, their future looks bright.