After a great season, the Echo goes one-on-one with men’s ice hockey coach Blaise MacDonald to discuss his thoughts on the team, the season, and the future of the program.
The Colby Echo: Looking back on the season what did you do differently that helped turn the team into a top contender in the NESCAC?
Blaise MacDonald (BM): Well, you know I think as coaches we are more facilitators. So, we encouraged engagement with our senior class for sure, and ownership from the team. They really charted their own course, and they held themselves to their standards. As coaches we just tried to facilitate that. We were fortunate enough to have a group that was very free flowing in their thoughts and ideas and very intentional in what their desired outcomes would be.
Echo: Was having your first-ever recruiting class for a full four years helpful in cultivating the type of team dynamic that you wanted?
BM: It takes time in the NESCAC when you’re a new coach coming in here. I’ve coached for over 30 years but it takes time to change the culture of your team, the dynamic of your team. It really does take getting your recruits in here, not that the other recruits were bad, they were fabulous kids, but they were recruited with a different set of messaging, so our messaging, I think, was very specific and detailed. These guys were able to move the needle in terms of how we were going to play and so it does make a very, very, big difference.
Echo: Looking back on the season, what were some of your favorite moments?
BM: Well, you always have to love the start of the season. We do midnight madness all the time, so it was Halloween night at 12:01a.m. and we didn’t care if there is only one person there to watch us. It’s the fact that it’s the first second we can get on the ice, we want to do it. There is tremendous energy and it’s great to see the seniors lead us out, and that is a really special time for me. Sweeping Bowdoin was a spectacular time, especially with EJ Rauseo ’17 scoring a big goal late in the game, and we had a comeback in our home game. I thought our game presentation and the energy at the home games was great. We shut the lights off, we had a spotlight, we had some drummers, and various things added a lot of energy. As a result we only lost one NESCAC game at home. We want that when people play us at Colby at Alfond, it’s going to be a tough place to play. The memory of us singing the Colby fight song in the locker room after a win, the different symbolism we do after wins and seeing the guys do that and enjoy that are really special memories for me. I just was grateful for the student body to come out and support these young men. And that is something we need to continue to work and grow.
Echo: What are you looking forward to in the coming years for the program and what are you expecting for next year?
BM: So, we are losing eight very critical players, and that is a big class. They all played big roles on our program, but they have guided the classes underneath them to be able to increase their production and standards. They have kind of given them a good template of how to get better. I think we are going to be very, very, good next year, in spite of losing all of those players. I think we have some good recruits coming in, but most importantly, I think I see some underclassmen that will take 10-20 percent jumps in their game because I know they are committed, have the talent, and I know they will get better. We also have two phenomenal goaltenders. So that is really where you start, the fact we can go into every game thinking “whoever is in the net, that is the best goalie in the building,” so that allows you to explore your potential a little bit and take a few risks. That will help develop our young defense core as we will have three freshman defensemen next year, so they will be able to make some mistakes, but it won’t always show up as a goal. I think as a team our returners will be very driven to have a great year and that they will integrate the freshman very well. We have good goaltending so it’s a pretty good formula. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I think we are going to be very good next year.