Everybody is going to learn together for the Hamline's men's hockey team. New head coach Doc DelCastillo gets a first chance to see his charges in action Friday when they open the annual MIAC Hockey Showcase against Gustavus Adolphus at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Game time is 5:00 p.m. A live stats feed of the game is available by clicking here.
Hamline also plays Sunday, October 28 against Concordia at 2:30 p.m.
Although DelCastillo got the job in May, he went to work recruiting. So it is that the 2012-13 Pipers' roster is dotted with 14 new faces. Hamline, which has made the MIAC playoffs the last five seasons in a row, was hit harder by graduation than most teams. Among the losses were two of the top goalscorers in school history (Brian Arrigoni, Jordan Van Gilder) and the top goalie for the previous four seasons (beau Christian).
Fortunately, some stalwart forwards such as soph Nick Widing (the top returning scorer with nine goals), and juniors Zach Johnson, Cam Stowers and team captain Ryan McElhone return. They will have to provide the leadership as the new forwards -- most of whom come in with excellent credentials from junior programs -- adjust to the rugged pace of the MIAC.
The Pipers may have had losses up front but they start the season with seven players who had blue line experience last year. Kirk Olimb has played 62 games the last three seasons. At 6-5, 215, Grant Fahnhorst is a major presence on the blue line and second year player Joe Rubbelke impressed with his steady play in his own end while adding three goals and 14 assists for offense.Troy Hesketh, an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, played 19 games there last season.
Widing and Rubbelke were All-MIAC Honorable Mention last year as freshmen.
Matt Hemingway, who saw action in six games last year, gets the starting nod against the Gustiies. But he may be challenged for the goaltender job by frosh Nick Heimer, who played junior hockey last season after a career at Rochester Lourdes and Parker Plucinak.
"We'll probably be fairly defensive minded this weekend," DelCastillo said. "I'm hoping to play a lot of guys."
DelCastillo has been coaching in junior hockey the past three seasons. A former head coach at Alaska-Fairbanks, he has also been an assistant coach at Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State. He has only had his team on the ice for 10 days but he likes what he has seen. "I'm happy with our effort in practice," he said. "The enthusiasm has been excellent. We're excited to get going."
His introduction to the MIAC is against a perennially difficult foe. The Gusties won the MIAC postseason playoffs last season and finished with a 17-7-5 overall mark. MIAC Player Of The Year Ross Ring-Jarvi has graduated but there are plenty of bodies back for GAC, including their large goalie, John McLean. "Oh, they'll be tough," DelCastillo said.
The Pipers landed in sixth place in the coaches' preseason poll. The complete results can be found by clicking here.