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2023-24 Men's Hockey Season Preview

2023-24 Men's Hockey Season Preview

By Joe Thomson

The Dalhousie Tigers are looking to bounce back from a disappointing season last year in which they finished at the bottom of the AUS standings. Despite not ending the season the way they wanted, the team managed to put together some nice moments that point towards a promising 2023-24 season.

Head coach Chris Donnelly had to deal with losing 12 players this offseason but is looking forward to getting to work with this new group.

“We have added players at every position, as well as some transfers from other institutions,” says Donnelly. “There will always be an adjustment period for the new players, as they get acclimatized to the pace of the game and the maturity of the players”.

Among the fresh faces is one who Dalhousie fans will be familiar with. Sydney, Nova Scotia native Derek Gentile is returning to the team after a one-year absence. Prior to leaving the team in December of 2021, he scored 15 goals and racked up 12 assists across 18 games. Donnelly has high hopes for Gentile’s return and has named him this year’s team captain.

Gentile spent the last year and a half playing for the South Carolina Sting Rays in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and for an Italian team in Europe’s Alps Hockey League.

Dalhousie will get to test themselves early in their season opener against their cross-town rivals, the Saint Mary’s Huskies on October 6. The Huskies finished second overall in last season’s regular season standings, and made it all the way to the AUS championship before losing to UNB. The Tigers dropped all five games last season to Saint Mary’s but with a new group of players and returning players hungry for revenge, things are shaping up to be different this year.

“We have a number of guys who have improved immensely from last season and our group is in very good physical condition. They are looking forward to getting back to playing,” says Donnelly.

Returning players include third-year goalie Alex MacDonald, who was one of the team’s best stories coming out of last season. MacDonald was responsible for four of the Tigers six wins and posted a save percentage of .902. He cemented himself as the Tigers lead netminder and is looking to build on his successes this year.

A quartet of defencemen are also returning to the ice this year. Jarrett Baker, Scott Gaetz, Jackson van de Leest, and Josh Wainman are all back and looking to rebound from last season. Baker led the Tigers in goals last season with eight and picked up 10 assists along the way. Gaetz has the highest +/- from last season among the returning players. 6’7” van de Leest picked up eight points last year and will continue to use his big frame to break up shots in front of the net. Meanwhile, Wainman scored three goals last season and will try to build on that number this year.

On the front end, Shaun Miller is back after tallying 13 assists last season, good for second on the team, and first amongst returning players. Evan MacKinnon is also back and will try to build on his seven goals from last season.

Donnelly says his players are itching to get back on the ice and prove that last season was an anomaly.

“We are looking forward to getting back in the competitive environment of the AUS hockey conference.”

“We are looking forward to playing every team and the fans can expect an honest effort from everyone in our program.”

The Tigers open their season on the road at Saint Mary’s on Friday, October 6. They return home the following night to host Acadia in their home opener.