Building on Success

BY KEVIN DIFFILY // DEC. 13, 2012 //

“Getting into the tournament is nice, but that’s not enough,” says T.J. Manastersky.

The fact that Curry’s hockey team has reached the NCAA Division 3 Tournament four of the past eight years is an impressive feat, according to Manastersky, the college’s new hockey coach. But he is not satisfied with simply making the tournament, and he doesn’t want his players to be either.

Curry's new hockey coach T.J. Manastersky has his eyes set on a national championship. // COURTESY PHOTO //

Curry’s new hockey coach T.J. Manastersky has his eyes set on a national title. // COURTESY OF CURRY ATHLETICS //

He wants to win a national title.

“We want to win games,” he says. “We want to go to the Frozen Four. And then we want to win the whole thing. That’s the vision.”

Manastersky was hired last summer to replace longtime head coach Rob Davies, who resurrected a once proud program that fell into disarray. Davies coached from 1999 to 2012 and helped make Curry into a national powerhouse. With a record of 213-131-21, he is the program’s all-time win’s leader.

Vinnie Eruzione, Curry’s athletic director, declined to discuss why Davies was not retained after such a successful tenure, stating only that the college has “a policy of not discussing employment matters of former employees. [It does] appreciate Coach Davies’ many contributions over the years.”

Eruzione was more than happy to comment on Davies’ replacement, however.

“Coach Manastersky’s vision for the program and his passion for the sport and for student-athletes were major reasons why T.J. was the perfect fit for us,” says Eruzione. “Under T.J.’s leadership, I am confident that our program will continue to thrive.”

Manasterky came to the top job after serving only four years as an assistant coach, at SUNY Fredonia in New York, as well as Division I Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. At just 26 years of age, he is likely one of the youngest—if not the youngest—head coaches in all of college hockey. But what he may lack in experience, Manastersky more than makes up for in passion.

Growing up in the Toronto area, Manastersky began playing hockey at the age of 5. In college, he played for SUNY Oswego, which is consistently one of the best teams in Division III. At Oswego, he was a member of the SUNYAC (State University of New York Athletic Conference) All-Academic Team and was a key member of the defense.

After college, he played for the Richmond Renegades of the Southern Professional Hockey League. In short, hockey runs in Manastersky’s blood.

“Hockey’s always been part of my life,” he says. “My dad is a hockey coach. He coached university hockey in Toronto. My grandfather won a Memorial Cup (the trophy awarded to the champion of the Canadian Hockey League) in 1949. He also played six games for the Montreal Canadiens….I’m just extremely fortunate to be able to stay in the game and have it as a career.”

Curry has gotten off to a decent start this season, with a 4-3-1 record (3-1-1 in the conference) as of Dec. 3. The solid, but unspectacular play so far can be attributed to a young team, as just 13 players returned from last season’s squad, which made it to the ECAC Northeast championship game before falling to Wentworth in overtime.

Seniors Ian DeLong (8 goals, 7 assists) and Connor Hendry (5 goals, 4 assists) and sophomore Jordan Reed (4 goals, 7 assists) have led the offense, while sophomore Derek Mohney and senior Joe Dawson have largely shared time in goal.

Assistant Captain Casey Brugman, a senior, says Manastersky has already brought change to a program that occasionally exhibited a “lack of maturity” last year. “Now, we have a professional-based culture in the locker room,” he says. “There’s not a lot of clowning around. Coach is a pretty straight-forward guy.”

Of course, winning alone won’t define this team. Manastersky says academic success and community service are integral parts of building a successful program, and both will play a role in the players’ overall success.

“Our hockey program is not about showing up at practice and games and playing. It’s more than that,” says Manastersky. “We have to be doing things the right way in all areas of life, not just when our skates our on. There’s a lot more that goes into a college hockey program than meets the eye.”

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