The 2017-2018 hockey season came to a close back in February. The team ended the season with a record of 21-17-2. They played some incredibly intense games, and kept their fans on their toes throughout the year.
As a couple months have passed, the guys have had some time to reflect on how this season went. I sat down with three of the players who will be returning next season, Mike Zidansek, Chris Mazzella, and Ethan Docking.
After a rough ending to the 2016-2017 season, a lot changed for Blue Hen hockey. The team lost a few playmaker seniors, gained a lot of young, but talented, rookies and found themselves with a new head and assistant coach. The season opened up with a series against West Chester that ended in a split, and from that point it took a little time to find their groove. Mazzella pointed out that for him, a low point of the season was the slow start to the season, however the team got better as the season went on.
In the fall semester there was a long stretch of away games. The Hens experienced a lot of series splits, but found themselves playing some high intensity hockey. For example, though they got swept, their weekend in Ohio was one of their best weekends of hockey in the first half of the season.
Coming back for the winter session, it took the Hens some time to gel again. There were a few series splits, but some of the best games were played in this time. For Mazzella it was an overtime winner scored by Kevin Felice against URI that sticks out in his brain as the most memorable moment of the season. Zidansek added that his high moment for the season was the OT game winner against long time team rivals, Stony Brook, however his low point of the season was “losing the home Liberty weekend and the week of practice after was all conditioning. But that helped us refocus and finish the season strong.” There were a lot of highs in the winter, which provided some good momentum to come back for the last few games of the regular season. Zidansek noted that the team “ended the regular season on a five game winning streak, which included the RMU sweep during alumni weekend,” which was also the most memorable part of the season for Ethan Docking because they were able to come back in the third period to complete that sweep.
The postseason for the Hens included the ESCHL playoffs. In the first round of the tournament, the team beat Rutgers which moved them on to the next round. In the second round of games, Delaware played Liberty, who ended up taking the first place spot in the ESCHL, and lost after a hard fought game. That game was the end to the Hens’ long, hard fought season.
After playing 40 games together, these guys become a family. They spend most of their time together, whether it be on the ice, on a bus or even hanging out when it has nothing to do with hockey. When asked what the glue of the team was, Docking said, “The upperclassmen leadership, we all got along really well off the ice. We were all friends.” During the low points of the season, that’s what helped keep morale high was knowing that they “were all in it together as teammates and friends, and that they were all putting in work to help better the team,” said Zidansek. Mazzella said when morale was low, “We tried to keep things loose in the locker room.” Docking added that they, “don’t take anything too seriously. Even when things were tough, we kept things light in the locker room.” By keeping a happy environment, the team was able to bounce back from those tough times faster, which aided in the overall success of the team’s season.
Surely with a team that has a lot of young players, there was a lot of room for growth to happen. Each of the guys had their own opinion on who they thought grew the most as a player throughout the season. Mazzella noted that Kevin Felice improved a lot from the prior season, saying, “he was hurt last year and wasn’t able to contribute as much, and this year he was a key contributor on the forward lines.” Ethan Docking thought his fellow rookie, Brian Ostrander, deserved to be recognized by saying, “he started off playing well and continued to grow as a player. He was really consistent.” Finally Zidansek said that he thought Colin Emerich grew a lot as a player because, “he made a jump from D2 to D1 and he handled it very well. He was an anchor on our third line.”
Every season there comes a time for goodbyes as well, and this year the Hens will be saying their farewells to five seniors who have been playing hockey for Delaware since their freshman year. Obviously there will be things that are missed about these guys. For Zidansek, he said he will miss Phil Collins and Dancing Queen playing in the locker room the most. Ethan said, “Sitting next to Corapi, my mentor, in the locker room.” Mazzella summarized what he will miss the most by saying, “how much fun they were both on and off the ice.”
We discussed a short outlook for the upcoming 2018-2019 season. The team already knows that they need to work on a few things to be more successful next year. Zidansek said, “Getting off to a quicker start coming in. Be better conditioned and prepared to begin the season.” Mazzella said, “Not taking any teams lightly. Treat every opponent the same.” Docking added, “Bring a little more intensity to practice and more mental focus off the ice.”
Unanimously, the boys all agreed that their overall goal for next year is to make it back to Nationals and win the league. Once again, the team would like to thank all of their families, friends and fans for their continuous support throughout the season. We look forward to an exciting one next year, but for offseason be sure to keep up with the team on all of their social media platforms!
Facebook: University of Delaware Men’s Division 1 Ice Hockey
Written By: Analisa Vizzoni