Ian McNally brought some high expectations when he took the helm of the Hun School boys’ hockey team last winter.
“The reason I wanted to take this team is that I wanted us to be a top program, I didn’t want an average team,” said McNally, a 2007 Princeton University alum who played for the Tiger men’s hockey program.
“The school has been supportive, we have new treats in terms of equipment; I think we will respond on the ice.”
The Raiders responded well to McNally in his debut campaign, going 10-9-1 and making it to the finals of the Independent Hockey League (IHL) championship game where it fell 2-1 to Pennington in overtime.
In McNally’s view, the title game defeat and some infusion of new talent should help Hun raise the level of its play this winter.
“I think losing the title game last year has given the team extra motivation,” said McNally, whose team opens the 2012-13 season by hosting Central Bucks (Pa.) on November 28.
“We have 12 new guys so there is a lot of new blood. There are guys who don’t know better so there is a lot more competition for positions and more accountability that way.”
Junior goalie Devin Cheifetz has shown accountability from day one of his Hun career.
“We are lucky to have him; he is one of our more valuable players,” said McNally of Cheifetz, a starter since his freshman season.
“He has decent size, good technical skills, and plays the puck well. He is collected on the ice. He is one part of the team that I don’t have to worry about. He helped to organize some of the fall workout stuff, he reaches out to the players through social network stuff. He has the respect of everybody; he has a collected demeanor on the ice.”
Star defensemen Brad Stern, a junior, and senior Eric Szeker have earned the respect of Hun’s foes.
“We have Brad Stern and Eric Szeker back on defense, they were our big two last year,” said McNally.
“Stern is the more offensive guy, the guy on the point. Eric is bigger and reliable down low. Last year, we had to lean heavily on those guys and they probably played too many minutes.”
Hun will be able to lean on some others along the blue line this winter. “We have Dan Seelagy and Andrew Zhou back; we also have J.C. Moritz, a PG from Pennsylvania who is our biggest kid,” said McNally.
“We also have Jonathan Pensler, a freshman and a local kid who should step in. We have a legitimate d-man rotation, that is by far the biggest difference from last year’s team. We just didn’t have the horses on defense last year.”
The Raiders do have some horses at forward in senior Alex Vukasin, junior Alex Karanikolas, junior Alex Bidwell, and senior Peter Nawn.
“Alex Vukasin looks as good as ever; he is very fast, he sprints on the ice,” said McNally, whose group of forwards will also include seniors Jordan Wang, Anton Salienko and Matt Waxman together with juniors Spy Avgoustiniatos and Nick Guns and sophomores Chris Rossi and Ray Demoine.
“He can go as fast with the puck as without it. Karanikolas is a power forward, he is a big bull who works the puck down low and wears you out. Alex Bidwell scored goals for us last year and should have even more this year. Peter Nawn was hurt for about a third of the year but if he is healthy he should get points. We have a rotation of three full lines returning so that is nice.”
McNally believes his team is poised to have a nice season. “We have accountability based on the numbers,” said McNally.
“I expect us to do even better in the league, which means winning it. I want us to do better in non-league play, we have scheduled some better teams. We have added to the number of games as well.”
In order to be one of the better teams in the area, Hun will need to develop some good chemistry.
“With this team, it will be about how the players come together,” asserted McNally.
“It is not strategy or individual skill, it is how close we can get in a short period of time. You are going to work harder and learn your role better if the team matters. If you are playing with your best friends, you try harder than if it is just a group of guys going to the same school.”