Senior Brad Surdam has led LVC the past three years.
While Penn State begins to make plans for a move to NCAA Division I, another Pennsylvania school is prepping for its first year in ACHA after 15 years at NCAA level.
by Chris Ostrander, ACHA Asst. Director of Public Relations
It’s no easy feat stepping into a coaching job five months before the season starts. It is an entirely different challenge to inherit a team that will be playing it first season in the ACHA since the program's ineption in 1998.
That is what Tony Horacek faces as he steps into the head coaching position at Lebanon Valley College for the 2010-11 season.
Horacek has been on the job with the Dutchmen hockey program for only a short time and has already had a handful of hurdles to jump over.
The program went through a rocky patch shortly after a difficult 2009-10 season. However, former captain, Spiros Anastas was a champion for the program finding their way to the ACHA.
“[Spiros] loves LVC,” Horacek said. “He has been there for four and a half years and was a vocal leader in getting this situation rectified and resituated.”
Anastas’ work and passion has paid off, he has been brought on as an assistant coach for the 2010 season. Horacek noted his passion for the program and vociferous attitude as reasons to keep the four-year captain on the staff. Anastas spent much of the 2009-10 season as a student coach because of injury.
Part of the situation that Anastas was crucial in rectifying was the fact that the Dutchmen were looking at a bleak returning core when the jump to the ACHA was originally announced.
“When we were putting together the schedule, midway through the summer, I was just hoping we would have enough bodies back so we could field a team,” Horacek said. “The way it has turned out, moving forward, it is going to be a good season.”
The Dutchmen were not been without success over the past season in the ECAC. They boasted eight members of the ECAC West All-Academic team and recently saw 2010 graduate Anthony Longo sign a professional contract with the New York Aviators of the new Federal Hockey League.
A number of returning players, 14 to be exact, present LVC a strong core to build around. Recently named captains Rich Durazin, Matthew Kisiday and Brad Surdam will play a major role in the Dutchmen’s inaugural season at the ACHA Division I level. The three captains will be complemented by junior Tim Bodenheimer, sophomore Matthew Turner and freshman Shane Golden go give LVC a talented nucleus around which to build.
“[Rich] Durazin is a great leader, his is a good, strong kid,” Horacek said of his senior goaltender. “Last year he was up with the [Hershey] Bears (AHL) for a couple of weeks when they needed a goalie for practice.
“He has good instincts and is a great leader.”
Matthew Turner, a native of Sheffield, England, will push Durazin hard for time between the pipes for the Dutchmen.
“Turner is no slouch either,” Horacek said. “He is a good goaltender and has a couple years left. He will be a good guy to build the team around going down the road.”
Leadership qualities are hardly at a premium in Lebanon Valley. According to Horacek, only two players were planning on returning for the 2010-11 season. After a handful of informal skates, the core of 14 returning players had formed. LVC will enter the season with 23 players on their roster.
Considering the talent he has inherited, Horacek has expressed no doubts about what his team will bring to the table as they venture into the ACHA.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to have a quality program,” he said. “I am encouraged by our returning players. They want to get better. They listen and they compete hard in every practice.
“Everything I have seen points to us having a good return on our investment in the win-loss column.”
Horacek even ventured a guess at what that return might turn into once the regular season gets under way -- he has placed the benchmark at 15 wins for this season.
“If you’re not in it to win then you’re in the wrong business,” he said of the task he faces. “You put your best foot forward and if you’re not competitive enough, then you shouldn’t be playing in the ACHA, especially at the D-I level.”
It is clear Horacek isn’t interested in missing his goal for the 2010-11 season. After a 10-year professional career, six of which were spent in the NHL, he certainly knows the path to success.
There is no doubting the talent and compete level present at LVC. In addition the coaching staff clearly has the drive and ability to turn this program into an immediate presence in the ACHA.