Last updated on Nov 16, 2020
By Connor Lambert, Staff Writer
Men’s hockey will be the first team from the university to start playing on Nov. 14. Ever since athletics announced men’s hockey would be the newest sport on campus on April 30, they have been waiting on the coronavirus pandemic to start gameplay. The men’s hockey team will be playing in the Atlantic Hockey Association, and they will not be eligible to compete in the postseason, but they will take on some of the east coast’s best hockey programs. Atlantic Hockey announced it had separated the league into eastern and western pods to limit the spread of COVID-19. LIU joined as a scheduling partner with the Atlantic Hockey Association for the 2020-2021 season. They will play a two-game set with each team this year except for Air Force, who they will play for four games. While Atlantic Hockey is still working to finalize the return-to-play protocols for the season, LIU has agreed to abide by all protocols for the 2020-2021 season.
On Oct. 2, the Northeast Conference Council of Presidents reaffirmed its July 29 decision to postpone fall sports athletics competition and championships no earlier than Nov. 25. After the NCAA moved fall championships to the spring, the NEC said it is continuing to evaluate the viability of providing a competitive experience in the spring semester. “This course of action now allows us to shift our attention to the future and work with campus leaders to examine the feasibility of potential competitions for fall, winter, and spring sports that support the well-being of student-athletes, staff and campus communities,” NEC commissioner Noreem Morris said. “I continue to be inspired by the resilience and determination of our student-athletes and look forward to the day they can once again play the game they love and experience the thrill of NEC competition.”
Head coach Brett Riley is excited about the upcoming season and to get the program up and running. “When they put the jersey on for our first contest, this will feel like a reality. Watching many of these guys achieve a lifelong dream of playing at this level will be a surreal moment, and seeing our transfers help upstart that moment will make it that much better,” he said. “Despite the times, it has been a period of milestone moments for our program that I’m very proud of.” Riley says they are approaching this season with a “something to prove mentality” and praises the team’s preparation. “I can tell you that this team has maximized every day and has not taken a day for granted regarding on and off ice training and preparation,” he said.
Garett Metcalf, a graduate student, talks about not wasting this opportunity he has. “During the summer months, I spent time working on goalie specific things. I found flaws in my game and tried to turn them into strengths,” he said. “I also continued to work on my strength in the gym and emphasized conditioning in the later months of summer.” Metcalf stated how being home in Colorado helped this offseason. “I was very fortunate to have private ice and a gym to work out. The pandemic had a minimal effect on my training,” he said
Christian Rajic, a senior, states how COVID has made these fall practices different. “Being on campus, COVID has put some restrictions on what we can do. We started with small group workouts and skates, but now we are practicing as a full team, and it feels like things are starting to get back to normal,” he said. Despite the differences, he feels the team is ready to go and show what they can do. “We know there are going to be ups and downs for the first season, but the way we have prepared, I know we are ready to compete with any team we face,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in this group and can’t wait to get things started Saturday.” LIU takes on Army West Point to start the season on Nov. 14.