Ice Hockey

Looking Ahead: 2000-2001 - Righting The Ship

When Ron Kuhl took charge of Hudson Valley Community College's hockey program in 1997, he implemented a five-year plan for success. Now, as Kuhl enters his fourth season at the helm for the Vikings, everything appears to be on schedule.

"We're getting there," Kuhl said. "We're righting the ship."

Consider this: When Kuhl inherited the Hudson Valley hockey program, his first campaign resulted in a dismal 2-15 record. The 1998-99 season was better (8-11-3) and Hudson Valley finally hit .500 last year, finishing with an 11-11 mark.

"We've improved every year," Kuhl said. "Hitting .500 felt good. You've got to hit .500 before you can go on; .500 is like water level. You're right at the top of the water. Now it's a matter of getting out. And that's where I think we're going to be this year. We'll have the potential to compete with the upper teams in the Eastern Junior College Hockey league consistently."

Kuhl will have to do it without his top four goal scorers from last year, who were lost to graduation. Instead, the coach is counting on serious production from his four returnees: Defenseman Scott Bazzano (Seton Catholic), goalie Brendan Dwyer (Arlington), defenseman Kevin Graber (Troy) and forward Mike Griffiths (Bethlehem).

All four are tabbed as starters, but the squad's fortune could be in the hands of rookies.

"The freshmen all come from winning programs," Kuhl said. "They're so used to winning that they're comfortable with pressure. They know how to play in big games. They're going to go out there and do all the things that prompted us to recruit them."

Kuhl is especially excited about a group of incoming players from Saratoga. Mike Paine, Chris Paine, Phil Usas, Adam Finkin, Kyle Reddon and Mike Santamoor all played on Saratoga's 1999 state championship team.

Other freshman expected to have an impact include: Brian Dudek (Pearl River), B.J. Sheehan (Albany Academy), Jim Sturges (East Hampton, MA), Dean Vandervort (Northern Burlington, NJ) and Jason Vasco (Christian Brothers Academy).

"We'll be pretty solid," Kuhl said. "If the kids commit to their schoolwork and the game itself, that would make a successful season. We just have to keep improving."