Lobos start new season aiming to fire on all cylinders
Opening the 2019-20 season against the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, University of New Mexico head coach Grant Harvey said the four losses were “a learning experience.”
“Pinching on ‘D’ doesn’t work to get rid of the freshman jitters,” Harvey said.
The results notwithstanding, Harvey sees great things ahead for the Lobos.
“The team chemistry is pretty solid,” said Harvey. “I do have three new defensemen, so their chemistry is arguably more important than a forward, but it is growing by the day for them. The forwards on the team have either played together from a previous Lobos team or they played on the 18U team together.”
Up front, Harvey said his top players are junior Chance Shanks and senior captain Jarrod Ronquillo (pictured).
“Both are important for their respective offense skills,” Harvey said. “Jarrod with his speed and shot and Chance sees the ice well and hockey IQ is as high as it gets.”
The Lobos’ freshman class is one Harvey said he’s been waiting on “for a long time.”
“That’s what I mean by chemistry – these guys have been a on a team for a long time and they have a brotherhood that started as kids for them,” Harvey said. “These eight players plus the addition of Alex Perry make the ensemble complete.”
The eight freshmen are Tristan Colyer, Tylec Kohlrust, Garret McKinstry, Jacob Dunwoody, Leandro Richert, Sam Fisher, Jarod Carnes and Marcus Trujillo.
Gone from the 2018-19 team are Nate Taglialegami, “a fantastic leader and quarterback of our power play,” according to Harvey, and Logan Colyer, “a once-in-a-generation talent” for UNM. Forwards Graeme Chiasson and A.J. Goff, defenseman Mackenzie Smith and goaltender James Bostian are also former Lobos.
With so many high-end players gone from the program, what are realistic expectation for Harvey and the Lobos this season?
“Some people want to call this a rebuild year, but I don’t regard it as so,” said Harvey. “I have so much work ethic balled up into one team that allows me to take a different approach that I enjoy, including a real hard incessant forecheck that we have never had before. I really believe my players can make a playoff run if we fire on all cylinders. We have to play all 60 minutes, and I like our chances.
“Obviously, we are green on ‘D.’ These guys have to learn fast and realize the game is so much faster and that a turnover on the wrong half of the ice is a goal against. They are very coachable, but they need to soak in everything very quickly to keep us competitive.”
Next month, the Lobos will play a tournament in Missouri, skating against the University of Missouri, University of Arkansas and University of Kansas.
“All are top-10 teams in our region, and we can find out where we stand,” said Harvey. “This tournament will establish a solid ranking for our conference. We win a couple there and we are sitting pretty. Lose two or more and we have a steep slope to climb.”
Harvey said he’s also looking forward to playing Texas Tech University in February at the Outpost Ice Arenas in Albuquerque.
“These fans at home don’t forget the 15 years we have been going at it,” Harvey said.
Moving ahead, Harvey sees the Lobos continuing to get top-notch players and individuals.
“I have been very responsive to any potential recruits and meet the parents and student on campus and have them skate with us,” Harvey said. “One practice with me and you can tell I’m a players’ coach. My success rate is about 25 percent and that’s solid for me. Obviously, our previous success perpetuates interest for the subsequent season so that’s why winning and being competitive matters not only for the current season, but seasons to come.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Nov. 1, 2019)