Last year, Warwick Vets wasn’t sure it would have a hockey team, but a big in-school recruiting effort kept the program alive. The season was still a struggle – Vets went 1-15 – but the ’Canes were out there.
A year later, the ’Canes are still alive, and ready to do a lot more than just be there. More than a dozen players are back in the fold and showing major improvement after many of them played for the first time last year. Mix in a few newcomers with hockey experience, and the ’Canes suddenly have the numbers and the ability to compete.
“We were fortunate enough last year to get a bunch of kids who had never played hockey before who wanted to play,” said head coach Howie Rosenblatt. “They’re all back and they’ve really improved. With the addition of two or three new guys with some hockey background, I think we’ll be in good shape. The way I’m looking at it is we’re better than we were last year and I don’t think the league got any better.”
Vets doesn’t expect to step on the ice and instantly contend, but they’re in a much better position than they were in last season. Their newcomers took strides last season but for much of the year, they still weren’t ready for full-time duty. As a result, six or seven players had to carry a big load. It took a toll, and Vets lost some players as the season went on.
But everybody who finished the year is back, save for one senior who graduated.
“It’s very easy to be a teenager, try something for the first time, not have success and then want to quit. That’s human nature,” Rosenblatt said. “It’s important with a team like we had last year, with kids who are playing hockey for the first time, to not let them get discouraged. They had a great attitude. It was a pleasure to coach them last year, and the beauty of it is they’re all back except for one.”
And now they’re ready.
“They knew where they were last year,” Rosenblatt said. “They got beat bad in a lot of games last year, but they stuck with it. They’re looking forward to playing teams this year and showing them how much better they are. We’re excited about that.”
The list of returning players starts with the goalie position, where Vets brings back seniors John McNally and Alec Silvestri. They split time last season and are both pushing for opportunities this season.
“Both goalies back, so that’s nice to have,” Rosenblatt said.
Senior Bill Burr is the team’s top returning point-getter. He didn’t score a goal last season but finished with six assists.
“He was our top guy at the end last year and he’ll be one of our top guys again,” Rosenblatt said.
Senior Colin Peters and sophomore Oliver Pinheiro saw a lot of time as last season went on, and they’ll be ready for big roles after showing a lot of improvement.
A host of other players will be pushing for time as well, and the common thread for all of them is improvement.
“The numbers are strong enough to where I can put two lines out there on a regular basis, instead of playing six or seven kids,” Rosenblatt said. “I think, for the most part, kids are going to get a lot of ice time. I’ve got at least two lines, maybe three.”
Vets will also benefit from some new additions. Kyle Veyera, Tyler DiPetrillo and Stephen Quinn are all joining the team and bringing significant hockey experience to the table.
It adds up to a team that doesn’t have to worry about having enough players – and can instead worry about contending. Rosenblatt doesn’t yet know where everybody is playing or how Vets will stack up against the rest of the league.
But the ’Canes are just happy to be focusing on hockey.
“We’re excited about this year,” Rosenblatt said. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying we’ll be able to compete with the top four or five teams in the league but I do believe we’ll be in the middle of the pack. That’s where I anticipate us being.”