By Jake Seiner
Patrick Leahy wasn't entirely sure what to expect in his first season as the men's hockey coach at Stonehill. Hired June 1, he essentially inherited a squad that finished 5-18-1 a year ago.
The task of turning around the program is a daunting one, and won't likely happen this season.
Despite a 2-4 start, there are promising signs, including the stellar early play of freshman Chris Tasiopoulos of Norwell.
The Thayer Academy graduate faced nearly 30 shots per game in his five starts, and turned those shots away at a .911 clip.
Last Saturday, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Tasiopoulos turned away 36 shots in a 2-0 win over Nichols. The performance, paired with his 41-save outing in a 4-3, overtime loss to Plymouth State, helped him earn Northeast-10 Goaltender of the Week honors.
Tasiopoulos followed up with 20 saves in a 4-3 win over Southern New Hampshire State last Wednesday.
"I definitely knew that if we were going to start winning, it had to start in net,'' Tasiopoulos said. "I just wanted to provide the team a chance to win.''
Last year's starting goaltender, senior Tyler Jackson, underwent knee surgery in the spring, and isn't expected back until after Thanksgiving. Entering the preseason, Tasiopoulos, and fellow freshmen Will Husic and Dominic Sawaia, were vying for the starting position.
"It was anybody's job to take from the start, and Chris stepped to the forefront,'' said Leahy, who guided The Winchendon School to back-to-back 20-win seasons from 2007-2009. "Overall, his hockey experience and the way he played in practice the first two weeks, that gave him the nod.
"I think he's gained confidence, and feels he should be in there every game. That's the way every goalie should act and feel.''
Not surprisingly, facing in-game shots from college players has been an adjustment for Tasiopoulos. "The first game was definitely a reality check,'' he said.
But his work over the summer with the Cape Cod Whalers has helped ease the transition. He faced shots from a number of college players and pros, including former Boston College standouts Brian Boyle (Rangers) and Brian Gibbons (Penguins).
"The guys feel confident with him behind them,'' Leahy said.
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