Coach Heenan ready to get Utica College hockey season started

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As the start of the 2021-22 hockey season approaches, Utica College Mens Ice Hockey Head Coach Gary Heenan is looking forward to getting things back to normal.

The long wait is finally over.

In March of 2020, the world as we know it came to a halt, as the Coronavirus pandemic began to take hold of the country and the world. Suddenly, everything that we took for granted was no longer available due to various lockdowns and shutdowns. The pandemic would cost Coach Heenan’s Pioneers the chance to play in the NCAA tournament in the 2019-20 season, as well as most of the 2020-21 season.

That was then and this now, as we are seemingly past the days of lockdowns and sports are getting back to normal. This includes Pioneers hockey, as they will open their regular season on October 30th against Adrian College before what should be a capacity crowd at the Adirondack Bank Center. The Pioneers should once again be a strong squad and contend for the UCHC title as well as a prominent spot in the USCHO Men’s Division III national poll.

Coach Heenan recently joined the crew from Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast to talk some Pioneers hockey. Here are some of the highlights of what he had to say.

When asked what to expect this upcoming season.

“Actually, there has been a major shift in the conference because one of the more traditional powerhouses has left in Elmira, so they left and followed Hobart into a conference further east from here. We enter a school, Arcadia, out of the Philadelphia region.”

“We’re entering a season for the first time I can remember where we’re completely healthy. We don’t have a single guy that’s nursing a surgery coming off a knee or hip surgery, or shoulder or wrist surgery. So you know, we’re old, we’re healthy, I say old in a positive way. We’re full of veteran leadership and feeling really good about ourselves.”

A profile of new Utica Comets Head Coach Kevin Dineen

On offseason preparations the Utica College coaching staff have to make.

It’s actually kind of nice. The college made a commitment to a strength coach a few years ago, and that’s not a regular thing at the Division Three level. So, for our athletic program to do that, we’re able to hand them (the players) off. It wasn’t that long ago where I was doing all the dryland training and the offseason conditioning, and to be honest, it’s just the guys get tired of your voice entirely. I think that’s just natural, so to be able to hand them off to our strength coach Nate, and he does a super job with them. I’m able to focus on some of the bigger issues of the program and some of the organizational pieces, the logistics.”

Discussing his experience as a TV analyst for the Utica Comets last season.

“It was just fun. I mean, it’s just watching hockey which obviously I love to do, and breaking down the game from a coach’s perspective. I had a blast with it, and I really did and, you know, strange you ask because Shay (Utica Comets play by play announcer Jason Shaya) grabbed me today, literally today, and just said ‘if it ever works out for you guys, you’re off, would you be willing to do it’ and of course I would. Hopefully I can get a few games in, it’s an enjoyable experience.”

This is a small sampling of the discussion with Coach Heenan. The interview also covers how the Utica College hockey program got started, recruiting, and the possibility of the Pioneers playing in more outdoor games in the future. For the entire interview, click on the link below.

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