CANTON — The New England Women’s Hockey League announced the cancellation of its season Friday, four days after the State University of New York Athletic Conference did the same for all winter sports.
The NEWHL features SUNYAC schools Buffalo State, SUNY Cortland, Morrisville, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam. The only school in the conference that is not a SUNYAC school is SUNY Canton, which is now scrambling to find opponents for nonconference games.
“When the SUNYAC canceled I kind of broke the news to (the team), telling them to expect the same thing (from the NEWHL),” SUNY Canton women’s coach Dave LaBaff said. “Our mind-set has been to be as transparent as possible to our players and make sure they are in the know with everything going on. We had a conversation on Zoom and I left the floor open for questions. I didn’t know what to expect. Our seniors took it rough, not all of them can afford a fifth year. The majority said they are bought into this program and will use this year to develop as much as they can.”
When the SUNYAC canceled men’s hockey, along with men’s and women’s basketball, indoor track and field, and swimming and diving, Bears women’s coach Greg Haney said he had already assumed the NEWHL would follow.
“We’ll try to be creative, as long as the university allows us to be on the ice,” Haney said about future practices. “If we have to get to smaller groups, we’ll do whatever is necessary. We’ll keep going every single day. It’s a good group.”
Because SUNY Canton is not part of the SUNYAC it has the ability to continue to play men’s and women’s hockey games if it can find nonconference opponents. The Kangaroos men’s team already was in that situation as it competes as an independent.
Even if the SUNYAC teams have been eliminated as possible nonconference opponents there are still plenty of teams, as of now, that the Kangaroos could face.
Among possible regional opponents are Utica, Nazareth, Elmira, William Smith and, if travel to nearby states is open, Norwich, Wilkes or Kings College.
“Some schools in New York state are still hopeful to have their seasons,” said SUNY Canton athletic director Randy Sieminski. “Our ability to play out of state seems to change every week. We can try to schedule some games and hope for the best. We’ll likely try in-state with our schedule.”
The SUNY Canton women’s team still has hope for games, but it also faces the possibility that all there may be this season is practices.
“When you have that first couple weeks of a (normal) season, you feel like you are cramming everything in,” LaBaff said. “It’s almost impossible to get to everything. We’ve done a lot of power skating, passing and developmental stuff. It’s been amazing to see our team latch onto it and push each other.”
If the Kangaroos teams are able to play, don’t expect to see any games until late January or early February. An official schedule is unlikely to be released in the next month or two.