Photo Credit: Mady Salvani-Army Athletics
Army West Point battled back against RIT to earn a tie and shootout win to pickup two Atlantic Hockey points. Now, their hockey team heads to battle the Badgers on Thursday and Friday on the road before their football team takes on the Badgers on Saturday. Heading into this week we took the time to chat with Army Goaltender Gavin Abric, as he is the likely starter for at least the first game of this series.
He is a goaltender that learned from Trevin Kozlowski how to compete at the Division One level, and also one with a lot of superstitions. One of the most enduring superstitions for him is his pregame music. Abric, the former New Jersey Hitmen netminder, listens to about 20 songs on his old blue iPod Shuffle, one so old that it has the scroll button. He was blown away by what West Point had to offer and committed shortly after one of his visits. The Wisconsin native expects to have a large contingent in the Kohl Center for this series, and is looking forward to leading this group against a tough Badgers side.
Associate Head Coach Zach McKelvie had the following to say about the staff’s interest in Abric.
” We recruited Gavin out of New Jersey Hitmen and it was a pretty quick process-we believed he had a ton of potential and loved his character. What drew us to him was his athleticism, competitiveness, and his character…he is a phenomenal person.”
On the Badgers, who are coming off of being on the wrong end of a series sweep by Michigan Tech, McKelvie added that the team is ” well coached, and highly skilled. Their result from last weekend isn’t at all indicative of who they are as a team. They will be ready to play and ready to protect their home ice. We expect to get a highly competitive team, hungry like us for a win.”
For the Black Knights, one of their biggest themes is improving day to day, and game to game. The staff thinks that while the group did leave points on the table last week that they improved from the Providence game, while still adding that more is in this group, and the staff expects more. As McKelvie said, “Our team was far more competitive then week 1 & for most of the weekend we played to our team identity. You can look at the result from the first two weekends and be disappointed but for Coach Riley and our staff it’s about playing better each weekend and we certainly took a big step from week 1…We still haven’t played a complete 60 minute game. This past Friday we played really well for 50 minutes but college hockey is so competitive, often times that’s not enough. So that’s number 1, playing a complete team game for 60 minutes. Number 2 is managing the game….such as taking bad penalties or allowing goals early/late in periods.” The Black Knights need to take the fight to the Badgers early on, lest they risk getting the Kohl Center riled up against them even more and playing from behind against a team filled with NHL talent, even after losing most of their top scoring from a year ago.
Another thing about the staff is knowing what group they have and what they expect from players. Every player in this group can come in or out of the lineup depending on results. The staff felt that Patrick Smyth and Kendrick Frost did not have good games against Providence, and got some other forwards a look on Friday night. No matter as the veteran pair came back to the fourth line and helped set a physical tone throughout the game Saturday. As McKelvie said of the pair ” Smyth and Frost are veteran guys and very good players. They didn’t play near to their abilities in game 1, so taking them out for one and putting them back in allows them to reset and focus. They went in and had a huge impact in the game. We were down 2-0, their line went out half way through the second and had a dominating shift which changed the momentum of the game. Their line was very impactful on the game. Nobody likes coming out of the line up, but Coach Riley knew that taking them out and getting to know get back in would have a big impact on our team.” For the Black Knights to get off to a good start this weekend, this group has to lead the way. Michigan Tech played well against the Badgers in part because they are a physical, and depth heavy team.
For the Black Knights, they need to show their depth, and ability to force their opponent to make mistakes because of the physical game they play. They also need a consistent starting goaltender, an answer to that may come later in the year, but the body of work for all candidates should be more clear after this weekend. Abric gets the next look in net for Brian Riley’s group, and he gets to make his second start in his home state.
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