A Time of Change & Improvement for Hockey At Rutgers

Rutgers hockey has new faces this year when it comes to the coaches and captains.

Rutgers’ new head coach, Martin Bernstein, resides from Matawan, NJ and played at Rutgers.

“When I was asked to take over the head coaching position, I was honored and really excited because I played here for the D2 team for four seasons, and I really want to see this program succeed,” Bernstein said.

After obtaining a degree from Rutgers in Sports Management, Bernstein went on to Florida State University where he received his masters in Sports Psychology and he feels very passionate about the mental effects sports have.

“The biggest difference that the team will have this season is more of a focus on the mental side of the game, we want our team to communicate well and play fast,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein says he expects all of the players on the team to have an opportunity to contribute during the season.

Growing up in St. Louis, MO, and playing for the St. Louis Jr, Blues Tier 1 AAA organization, Assistant Coach Michael Vishnevetsky was privileged enough to work with many NHL goalies, including Evgeni Nabokov and Robert Esche. He was drafted into the KHL at age 18 by Spartak Moscow and backed up Dominik Hasek as a rookie. Aside from coaching Rutgers, Vishnevetsky also coaches the New Jersey Renegades Jr. team (MJHL).

Vishnevetsky plans on improving and helping the hockey program at Rutgers grow. “People can expect a new era in Rutgers hockey. We plan on establishing a new culture in the way we play the game. You can expect our players giving a full sixty minutes of grind it out hockey. We may not be the prettiest team on the ice, but [that] doesn’t mean we won’t win games,” Vishnevetsky said.

Assistant Coach Tommaso Deangelis, who grew up in New Jersey and played for the New Jersey Rockets and New Jersey Devils Youth, hopes to bring his skills and passion in an effort to revive a winning program.

“I expect our team to make a return to nationals this year as I always strive for the highest goal. The team this year is focused on winning and learning,” Deangelis said.

Deangelis says the freshmen class has many talented players and Rutgers’ goaltending will be a lot different than in previous years with three strong goalies. Deangelis chose to coach at Rutgers because he is from New Jersey and wants to see the state university succeed on the ice. Additionally, some of his family members attended the school, including his uncle Mike Deangelis, formerly Rutgers head coach.

Rutgers also adds another assistant coach, Donato Fanelle, who attended and played at Rutgers. While at Rutgers, Fanelle’s team earned bids to an unprecedented four consecutive ACHA Division 1 National Tournaments. Fanelle looks to grow the team with his championship experience and tactics.

Adriaan Klassen, newly appointed General Manager/Recruiting Director, after 9 seasons behind the bench as Assistant Coach for the Ice Knights, expects a much different season than previous ones.

“Nobody involved in the program was happy with how things went last year, and as a result the slate has been wiped clean and everything has been refreshed,” Klaassen said.

There is a great effort to restore and grow the hockey program towards bigger and better things going forward. Klaassen says the new coaching staff, the morale and attitude of the players and the new uniforms/renovated locker room are helping to grow the program from the inside out.

With Rutgers Hockey changing, people are paying closer attention to the program and how it might eventually break into the Big Ten as a Division 1 varsity team.

“Concerning our efforts to elevate our program to NCAA Division 1 varsity status and compete in the Big Ten, we are currently working behind the scenes to attain the necessary funding to properly endow the program.  Because of the private nature of this phase of the mission, I cannot elaborate more than that on the subject.  However, I will say that the outpouring of support from the hockey community in New Jersey, the NY Metro area and the Atlantic District was amazing and inspiring. We also received plenty of support from fans, coaches and officials from around the Big Ten (even those who hope to beat us in the future!).  Everyone can rest assured that we will not give up until this becomes a reality,” Klaassen said.

Senior Rob Pellegrino, one of the team’s assistant captains and club president looks forward to the new season.

“I think people can expect a different atmosphere this year when compared to other years. We’re an entirely different team now… New coaching staff, some real good pick-ups in all positions… The team seems closer than ever before and really positive about the year, and people will see that when they watch us play,” Pellegrino said.

Pellegrino says that there are no easy opponents; anyone can beat you if you don’t execute your best game, and the same goes the other way.

For third year player and captain, James Felice, he expects people to see a huge change in the team chemistry.

“This year is truly a new start with an entirely new coaching staff and about 8 changes made to a roster of 28. However, in the midst of all these changes, I see and believe a great opportunity for success is in front of us,” Felice said.

Felice says he is confident in his teammates and their talent this year, and that their speed and heart will make this season successful.

“I chose to play hockey at Rutgers because although born in New York, New Jersey is where I was raised and the place I call home. Getting to represent your state at a collegiate level is pretty amazing in my eyes. It may not be on the biggest stage but the hockey community understands the level and the challenges a hockey player faces. In the end, I couldn’t have made a better decision in my hockey career and I am blessed to still call this place my home,” Felice said.

Junior Brian Gnad, also assistant captain this season, hopes to start regularly beating top-25 ranked opponents again this season.

“We have a very skilled team this year and a great group of upper classmen leading the way. We graduated a bunch of talented players after last year, but we had a good recruiting class that came in and guys are filling those voids nicely already. Among those new comers are two new goalies who made our roster and are proving to be key additions to our team,” Gnad said.

Gnad and the other players and coaches look forward to the 2015-2016 season at Rutgers as a time of change and improvement.

Fans can follow Rutgers hockey at http://www.rutgershockey.com for information regarding games, players and more.