After losing in the first round of College Hockey Mid-American league tournament last season, Kent State hockey is aiming to advance deeper in the playoffs this year.
The Flashes lost 6-3 to John Carroll in February in the first round of the playoffs and have marked their Nov. 9 game in Cleveland as a big early test in the season. The two teams split their regular season games last year, and KSU went on to finish 7-6-1 in the league.
John Carroll went on to win the CHMA tournament.
“John Carroll went to Nationals last year,” coach Zach Nowak said. “They beat us out, so these guys are looking to do something about that.”
Team co-captain Jake Friedman said the John Carroll game is “definitely marked on the calendar.”
“Anytime it’s cross-town or in the same state, it’s usually a pretty good little rivalry,” Friedman said.
Nowak, a KSU alum going into his second year as head coach, said the “outlook for the season looks pretty good.”
“We’re really excited,” he said. “We’re not, on paper, necessarily the most individually skilled team in the league. But we have guys that work together, that believe in each other, that want to be here every single day.
“We have an older group this year with some younger kids that are in some big roles.”
Among the returning players are co-captain Zach Zwierecki, who led the team last season in goals with 20 and total points at 36, and Friedman, who had 10 goals and five assists.
Newcomers include three new promotions from Kent State’s Division III team — J.S. Florek, Kyle Backston and Donovan Palmer.
“They were able to go down at the D3 level and kind of be The Man and dominate,” Nowak said. “I’m really interested to see how their development from last year is able to impact all of us this year.”
The team opens its season with games Sept. 23 and 24 at Syracuse, which went 6-20 last season. KSU plays Lawrence Tech in its home opener Oct. 2. Home games are at the Kent State Ice Arena.
Friedman described his team as hungry.
“We have a lot of people that have been counting down the days until the season starts.” Friedman said.
Mia Cadle is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].