Cassidy Optimistic About Younger Junior Team

Coach Cassidy of the Northwood Junior hockey team spoke about this year’s upcoming team and expectations earlier  this week. The Junior team put up historical numbers in the past two years and look forward to doing it again.

The team graduated all but four players last year. Patrick Callahan ‘18, Sean Bunting ‘19, Shane McGrath ‘18 and Sam DiBitetto ‘18 return from last year’s squad to provide leadership and experience. Everyone in the program is anxious and extremely excited to seeing the transition from a very old team to young.

Cassidy

Coach Chadd Cassidy (Photo: Buffalo Hockey Beat)

I think it’s a big factor when you have such a big turnover in your roster,” said Cassidy, who is in his third season behind the Huskies bench. “I have a lot of faith in those four returning players that they’re going to provide really positive leadership for our team, but the challenge is getting everybody on the same page as quickly as we can to start the season,” he said. “With our new fall schedule and a lot of our players playing soccer, it takes away a little of our time on the ice to go over systems. This is why it’s going to be a challenge to get all of our new players onto the same page in such little time but I’m sure we will be able to do that.”

The team’s youth is a new challenge for Cassidy, whose previous Northwood teams have been primarily veterans and older players. He says he’ll take the start of the season one day at a time.

“I think that is a little bit up in the air; we have to kind of evaluate the talent that we have,” he said. “I feel really good about a lot of our incoming players; we certainly graduated an awful lot of talent and skill, but at the same time we have a lot of really good young players coming up from our U-16 team and players coming in who have been accomplished players at other levels and places. I think the team is going to define itself but I don’t think we have an identity yet. That is going to be one of our challenges early in the season: to figure out as quickly as we can what we need to be successful.”

To replace the departing vets, Cassidy had to recruit far and wide. Players of all ages, from all around the world have joined the Northwood community and the Junior team this season.

“One of our key players coming in this year is Santeri Hartikainen ’18, who comes from Groton School where he has played the last two years; he has also worn blue and white for the Finnish national team for the past two season. Cassidy says, “he has a big right shot, right winger, and a guy that looks like he can put some points on the board.” Jerkko Ramo’ 19, another talented Finnish player, is a “high end type of centerman for us who is a good puck distributor and a real smart 200 foot forward,” Cassidy said. “When you look at the back end, one of our biggest strengths may be our goaltending,” said Cassidy. “We have three very talented kids who have come this year. We have a lot of talent; it’s just about where all that talent falls into place for us.”

The Junior team graduated several superstars and impressive talent. The big question is, who will fill their skates?

“We had proven scoring going into last year, guys who have scored a lot at this level and elite players at this level,” said Cassidy. “We have a lot of really good young players such as Cody Monds 20’ and Tommy Banister ‘20, who are going to be very good players for us, but they haven’t played at this level for a long period of time. So it’s always an adjustment when you move up. I think that we will have to be really good defensively, especially early in the season, because I think it’s going to take a little while for guys to find their scoring touch. You don’t replace guys like [Las Vegas draft pick and Providence commit] Jack Dugan  and [Michigan State commit] Kevin Lombardi, the Peltonen brothers [Wisconsin commits], Nicky Ormon, [St. Lawrence commit] Kaden Pickering, and Wyatt Wilmshurst. Those are very good players.”

Each season, Coach Cassidy has a distinct strategy to get the most out of his players, and this year he will focus on getting the young players up to speed as quickly as possible.

“I think culture is going to be a big thing for us,” Cassidy said. “One of the strengths of our program is the culture of guys understanding how hard we need to practice every day in order to be successful in games. When you have a lot of players coming from the U16 level, they don’t always understand that they may have gotten away with some things to get to this level, because of their talent. Well at this level, boys are turning into men, so one of the big transitions is going to be how hard we practice everyday so we are making sure we are preparing ourselves well for our games.”

 

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