After falling short of expectations in last year’s playoffs, the Bradley Division II Club Hockey team had several questions that begged to be answered.
Who would contribute in the absence of six departing seniors? How would new head coach Brian Hamilton adjust to the DII level?
If this past weekend was any indication, then the Braves are right where they want to be. Bradley completed a 2 game sweep of St. Louis University this weekend, winning 6-1 over the Billikens Friday night and again 5-2 on Saturday afternoon.
In front of a packed house at the Owens Center on Friday, Bradley jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two periods. They poured it on in the third period, collecting three goals in a three minute span, more than enough for the 6-1 victory. Seniors Kyle Tintera and Cole Harris each picked up a goal and an assist in the win.
“You can’t help but feed off the crowd energy,” Brian Hamilton said. “You can’t help but get jacked up knowing that the crowd is there for you”.
On Saturday, the Braves picked up right where they left off, scoring twice in the first four minutes of the game. Harris and sophomores Seth Bishop and Ryan Spence all added goals for Bradley in the second period, enough for a 5-2 win.
The goaltending tandem of junior Joshua Soulé and freshman Devun Schneider certainly impressed, combining to allow just three goals in two games.
Offensively, veteran forward Harris had a big weekend, collecting three goals and one assist. DII newcomers Bishop and sophomore Nick Sorrentino also played a huge role for the Braves. Sorrentino had two assists and Bishop scored in each game. Hamilton was pleased with what he saw from some of the newcomers.
“I was happy with [Bishop and Sorrentino’s] advancement up here [on the DII team] and their level of play,” Hamilton said. “Sorrentino understands what I want and is a guy who can get out there and lead the way a little bit. Bishop is a tough, gritty player who has that little bit of finesse when he needs it.”
Hamilton credited the success of this weekend to former DII head coach JP Fitzgerald.
“Originally our plan was not for me to be ready for the DII team yet,” Hamilton said. “But as life has it, I jumped up here early. I think this weekend is a great credit to JP.”
In addition, Harris noted the importance of team chemistry moving forward.
“So far the team is meshing really well,” Harris said. “To me, the new guys fit right in. As we continue this season I know this team will become very close, which will transfer to some great on-ice chemistry.”
The team will travel to St. Charles, Missouri to play perennial powerhouse Lindenwood University in a two-game series this weekend. Despite the challenges, Hamilton’s confidence level remains the same.
“With our system, we are going to take it to them,” Hamilton said. “I tell the boys that we dictate how the season goes. If we stick to the system, I don’t think it really matters who’s on the other bench. “
Bradley’s DII team won’t return home until Nov. 15, when they host Iowa State.