Castleton University men’s freshmen hockey players aren’t a secret anymore. Asa Palker, of Manchester, New Hampshire, made an impression on the New England Hockey Conference last weekend with a hat trick and a Rookie of the Week selection. Classmate Anton Tarvainen from Sipoo, Finland, is the Spartans’ second-leading scorer after Palker’s five points, with two goals and an assist in three games.
So far, six of coach Bill Silengo’s 13 freshmen have points and the Spartans are off to a good start as they blend newcomers with veterans.
While 0-1-2, the Spartans impressed with a 4-2 loss to No. 5 Hobart and rallied to tie a good Skidmore team.
“We’re happy as a coaching staff, but not satisfied,” Silengo said. “The thing that we like is we had eight freshmen dressed against Hobart and that was their second collegiate game. I feel like every single game we are improving.”
Next up is this weekend’s road trip to face the 2-0-1 Babson Beavers (Friday) and the 3-0-0 UMass-Boston Beacons.
Castleton is back home on Nov. 16 to begin a six-game homestand that will include its tournament, the WSYB Catamount Radio Invitational.
Castleton won that tournament last year but then tailed badly, winning only three times the rest of the way.
Silengo seems determined not to let the Spartans fall into the same trap.
“We got kind of caught up in that last year,” he said of rankings watching.
Silengo says veterans like Glenn Wiswell and Caleb Fizer are a big part of keeping the Spartans centered. Don’t be fooled that the two returning scoring leaders from 2017-18 have yet to get a goal or an assist.
“They don’t care at all,” said Silengo. “The only thing that matters to those guys is winning and whatever is best for the team. That’s what we’re trying to develop as a culture. Those guys are really good players and they’re going to be just fine. They will find the points but if you watch the video they do a lot of things that don’t show up on the score sheet.”
The Castleton coaching staff spent long hours evaluating players to recruit for this year and is already deep into finding the next class.
“We want to continue to develop our players but we’re already recruiting two years out,” Silengo said.
“We are meshing really good. The chemistry on this team is great. The guys are having a great time and that’s half the battle.”
This weekend’s Boston trip is always one of the toughest spots on the Castleton schedule and features opponents with very different styles.
Babson plays a defensive brand of hockey while UMass-Boston has a wide-open style and scored 19 goals in victories over Wentworth, Southern Maine and New England College. The Beacons laid a 9-0 shellacking on the Wentworth team that Castleton tied 2-2.
“(UMass-Boston is) very opportunistic off the rush. The key for us is to stay out of the box, limit their odd-man rushes and manage the puck,” Silengo said.
Castleton will finish this road stretch at Plymouth on Tuesday then return to Spartan Arena next weekend for a two-game set against SUNY-Canton.
Staying out of the penalty box will be key for the Castleton women as they try to build on last week’s NEHC victory over Salem State. The Spartans are 1-2 under new coach Mike Venezia but are 1-0 in the conference behind Saturday’s opponent, Southern Maine, and Norwich.
First up is a game at Plymouth State on Friday. The 1-3 Panthers have only six goals in their four games but two of them came in a 4-2 loss to Norwich.
Castleton is playing an aggressive style but staying under control has been a problem thus far; the Spartans have taken 23 penalties and allowed eight power-play goals.
“The first weekend was a little bit tough,” Venezia said. “We were competing with Morrisville. I think we were as good as them five on five but we were going to the penalty box too much.”
Castleton comes home for a Saturday afternoon game against 2-1-1 Southern Maine, which has allowed just three goals in the last three games.
“They are both good programs coming off a big weekend,” Venezia said. ”Both are riding high on confidence right now.”
Jocelyn Forrest leads Castleton in scoring with four goals and an assist, including her hat trick against Salem State. Jade Remillard has three assists and Courtney Gauthier a goal and an assist.
Forrest’s performance landed her on this week’s NEHC honor roll.
“We have a lot of talented kids who can score goals and last weekend was a good opportunity to showcase that,” said Venezia. “A bunch of other players had scoring opportunities as well.”