By Adam Duke
After a successful first season, goaltender Simon Hofley will make his return to the ice this season as the only goalie on the team to previously wear a Canisius uniform.
“I used to get extremely nervous,” said Hofley. “This year I’m a little nervous, but not as nervous as before. I know what to expect.”
He alluded to the fact that before the first preseason game last season, he was anxious and is much more ready to take the ice this year. Though he is the only returning Griff, Hofley is not the only veteran goalie on the team. Charles Williams, a senior transfer from Ferris State, has been brought in as well. Williams is the third senior on the team, part of the reason he was recruited.
“We only have two seniors, Geoff and Josh, and he expressed an interest,” said Coach Dave Smith on Williams. “We got a call from their coach. Their coach also coached Trevor Large, our assistant.” He continued saying that Ferris State’s starter is a “superstar goalie” and that “Charles was looking for a different opportunity to make an impact.”
The Griffs also brought in two freshmen net-minders this season: Daniel Urbani and Blake Weyrick. Urbani, a Coquitlam, British Columbia native, played in the OJHL for the Trenton Golden Hawks last season, leading them to their first ever OJHL Championship with a 1.69 goals against average in 40 games played. Weyrick, a resident of Los Angeles, California, was a member of the Janesville Jets of the NAHL last season, recording a 2.46 goals against average.
“We want to win a championship more than anything. That’s what it comes down to,” Weyrick said. “We’ve all bought in, we want success as a team.”
Weyrick cited the staff of the team, the program itself, and receiving a Canisius education for his decision to come to Canisius, saying it seemed like a perfect fit. “I just wanted to be a part of Canisius hockey, move forward and try to be a part of something a lot bigger than myself.”
Urbani and Weyrick were recruited to bring depth as well, in addition to their past hockey experiences to assist the Griffs. “They’re big goalies. They’ve both played on big stages, in big games. Whether it be the World Juniors or the Canadian Championship, they both have been there before,” remarked Coach Smith. “That’s always important, but they both work really, really hard. They’re both really good teammates. They want to be here at Canisius, and we’re excited to have them.”
This season, the goaltenders will face a few challenges, taking on the defending NCAA Division I Champion North Dakota Fighting Hawks, as well as the Alaska Nanooks and the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. “I think the most challenging part is to treat North Dakota and the Alaska’s and big-name teams like that as any other Division I NCAA hockey team,” said Hofley. “You can’t get too scared of them, and you can’t talk them down and not treat them like they’re anything, so you have to be even-keeled. You have to go out there and want the puck more than them.”
The Griffs will begin conference play in late October against Robert Morris. “Every team is getting new players, so none of the teams are exactly the same as the year before,” Hofley stated. “It’s always good to go into every game not trying to predict what the other team is going to do because every year they change.”
Hofley’s attitude and determination are what propelled him into assuming the starting role last year. “Simon far exceeded expectations. The expectation coming in for him was to push hard as a number three goalie and challenge for any opportunities,” Coach Smith recalled. “What he did was he outworked guys, outperformed guys, outcompeted guys, and he played in 27 games, so that’s a terrific first year.”
Hofley credits his success to his teammates, saying that the team’s success in the middle of the season last year was due to the entire team stepping up. “As a goalie, it’s always nice to see goals going in. It’s always kind of a relief,” he said. “But I don’t think that will go away. I think we have a lot of guys who are ready to do that.”
Hofley recapped how the play of his teammates assisted him in focusing and improving his own play. “Every shot mattered,” said Hofley. He also commented on the loss of former Griffs Shane Conacher and Ralph Cuddemi. “I don’t think it should be too hard,” he said. “Those are two great players, but we have a lot of good players who came in this year and we have a lot of guys who are ready to step up and assume their roles, so I’m not too worried about that at all.”
“I look forward to high competition amongst goalies,” said Smith. “We need to be better at that position top to bottom, meaning one through four. They’re all different personalities, they’re all different styles, which is why we’ve added a goalie coach with us full time.” He continued, “I’m excited to watch their development. We get Charles for a year, we get Blake and Danny for four, and we still have Simon for three. To watch their development as goaltenders is something I look forward to.”