Despite a 2013-14 campaign (15-20-5) that failed to measure up to some of Niagara’s more memorable seasons, Purple Eagles head coach Dave Burkholder still managed to find reasons for optimism for what lies ahead.
“We had graduated a pretty storied senior class with six players that contributed a lot of great leadership. We replaced that senior class with 10 freshmen, including two goalies,” Burkholder said. “We knew that there were going to be some growing pains and there were, but the positive is that we went on a pretty good run late in the season, which I think really bodes well for the future. A lot of young players got a lot of good experience and we’re hoping that translates to a good start to this season.”
One of those young players is junior forward Hugo Turcotte. Following a season where Turcotte led the Purple Eagles in goals (13), assists (16) and points (29), the speedy Montreal native will hope to build upon his success.
Burkholder has high expectations for Turcotte’s third season.
“We’re going to need our best players to be our best players on most nights, and Hugo is arguably one of the fastest players in Atlantic Hockey. When he’s on the ice, and at top speed, he’s a force. He’s a go-to-guy for our team this year.”
Joining Turcotte in Niagara’s promising forward group is senior captain Isaac Kohls, who finished second on the team in goals (12), assists (12) and points (24), despite missing the end of the season because of injury. Burkholder hopes that Kohls will quickly shake off the rust and return to his pre-injury form from a season ago.
“Isaac didn’t play for us in the playoffs last year and that was a huge blow because he’s arguably our best player,” said Burkholder. “He can shoot it. He’s got breakaway speed. He’s dynamic and he can do it all for us. As a coach you’re always hoping that a senior saves his best year for last, and we’re certainly hoping that’s the case with Isaac.”
While Kohls and Turcotte will pressure opposing defenses, sophomore goalies Jackson Teichroeb and Adrian Ignagni will attempt to limit rival offenses. Although they had difficult shoes to fill in their first year, the young netminders managed to instill confidence in their teammates and coaching staff.
“The goalies were in tough situation last season. As freshmen they were asked to replace a Hobey Baker finalist (Carsen Chubak), which was obviously tough,” explained Burkholder. “Teichroeb had a really good run and became our number one, and Ignagi had some really quality wins. We feel we have two number one goalies, which I think you need in order to have a successful program.”
2014-15 NIAGARA PURPLE EAGLES SCHEDULE
The young Purple Eagles will certainly have their hands full this year, as they will play Notre Dame and North Dakota in non-conference play. Niagara will hit the road to take on the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish on October 24-25, followed by a trip to Grand Forks on January 16-17 to play second-ranked UND.
While some coaches may prefer some “softer” out-of-conference competition, Burkholder relishes the opportunity to take on such storied hockey programs.
“We tell every player and parent on their recruiting visit that we’re going to provide them with a national schedule, and we’ve certainly done that this year. For us to play at Notre Dame on national television is a big deal for our program and for our school. Obviously North Dakota is an incredible program as well,” Burkholder said. “Those are great games for us in that they get you better for when you get back into league play. We’re excited to have those two opponents on our schedule.”
Despite operating with a team that may lack the experience of his nationally-ranked, title-winning teams of years past, Burkholder remains steadfast in his approach as coach. Now in his 14th season behind the Purple Eagles’ bench, Burkholder believes his current team will continue to develop and grow as a team.
“As a team we feel like we left a lot on the table last year. I think the guys that have taken over as leaders have done a great job for us so far. We pride ourselves on being one of the hardest working teams. If you play against Niagara, you play against a very fast and physical team, and that has not changed.”