Trevor Stienburg prefers to focus on the present and future rather than dwell on the past. For the Saint Mary’s Huskies head coach, the past is painful and haunting.
The Huskies, who begin the defence of their Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey title on Friday, went to nationals last March as favourites, only to watch their hopes of a University Cup dashed as they surrendered five third-period goals in a shocking 7-2 loss to the Western Ontario Mustangs.
It was a game the Huskies could have lost by as many as two goals and still advanced to the championship game.
“Everybody’s asking me the same questions about the last game,” Stienburg said.
“It’s over. Nobody’s back with their tail between their legs. I’m not looking back at our last game … I’m looking at what our guys have to offer now.”
It’s a similar team to last season, with national player of the year Marc Rancourt back for a fifth and final season along with the team’s six highest-scoring forwards.
All-Canadian Andrew Hotham anchors the blue line and Fall River’s Brandon Verge is between the pipes.
Hotham’s brother, Scott, also an all-Canadian, is the biggest of just five losses. Forward Cory Tanaka, defenceman Pat O’Keefe and goalie Neil Conway are the top recruits.
The Huskies have triumphed in the face of adversity before. They lost in double-overtime to the New Brunswick Varsity Reds in the deciding game of the AUS final in 2008, but avenged that last season by knocking off the V-Reds.
“We took that as motivation to go the whole way and we were successful in doing that by winning the AUS championship,” Verge said. “We need to use that this year to get back to nationals and hopefully have a better result.”
Stienburg wasn’t thrilled with the Huskies’ pre-season play and remains cautious of his team’s chances.
“As of right now, we’re not a better team than last year,” he said. “Can we be? I think we can. But if we’re going to be better, we have to get a lot more out of a lot more guys.”
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