We had some intense back and forth here on the blog last season inspired by the rough-and-tumble play of North Rockland. The Red Raiders had a pretty good year. And if not for a number of poor decisions on the ice, it might’ve been a great season.
That is the primary focus right now.
North Rockland has some good players coming back. There is momentum to work with, and the goal is to push a little deeper into the postseason.
“I don’t think one year has anything to do with another,” Red Raiders coach Gary Dworkowitz said. “When you have a certain level of success, the expectations rise. I think we learned a lot. You have to be competitive before you can be a championship team. I think we got a good education last season. Now our kids have to learn how to play tough while playing smart.”
There are some holes to fill, but there’s a talented nucleus coming back.
“We know what to do,” said junior defenseman Brian Bohlander. “We know how to win games. We just have to fit all the pieces together now and keep working.”
North Rockland had 39 players try out, and this team is big.
Bohlander is 6-foot-4 and weighs about 230 pounds. The Red Raiders are strong up front with Mark McElroy, Jeff Cool, James Morina and Tyler Connolly all coming back. Putting the puck in the net should not be a problem.
It’s not always going to be pretty, though.
“We’re a hard-grinding team,” McElroy said. “We lost our goalie, so the starting defensemen have to be strong, and we’ll keep going to the net. That’s how I got all my goals last season.”
North Rockland is opening the season with two games on Thanksgiving weekend in Glens Falls. It’s a good opportunity to play a couple of physical opponents and perhaps deal with a little adversity.
“When you look back to the Suffern game last season, a huge reason we lost is because we were undisciplined,” Cool said. “We are working to stop some of those scrums after the whistle and play smarter. And the guys coming back have to lead by example.”
(Photo: Cool, McElroy and Bohlander)