December 1, 2021

Cortland/Homer has a new coach, same solid nucleus

High School Hockey

hockey stock photo

With longtime coach Don Armstrong retired, Matt Caron now has the keys to the Cortland/Homer hockey program.

Caron previously coached at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, so he’s used to coaching at this level. He also knows he’s walking into a good situation after the Golden Eagles went 7-2-1 during last year’s shortened season. However, the adjustment hasn’t been totally flawless.

“It’s been a bit challenging, but hockey players are hockey players,” Caron said. “They come from a great legacy from the old coaches who developed this program very well. I’m walking into a program that’s a well-oiled machine. It’s about creating some opportunities and adjusting and tweaking a few things here….”

One constant through the coaching change has been assistant coach Paul Quinlan, who’s in his eighth season.

“It’s been different but all positive,” Quinlan said. “It feels like a fresh start. A lot of the kids, I think, are excited to have new ideas and new energy injected in. It’s not that there was anything wrong with our old process, but change is always exciting and I think everybody’s excited to get going and see what we have.”

Cortland/Homer returns all but three players from last year’s squad. The most notable absence is Jed Brazo, who scored 20 goals and notched 11 assists before deciding to go to the Canterbury School — a prep school in Connecticut.

Filling that role will be plenty of youngsters. The Golden Eagles have six seniors, 14 juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. The youth on the team doesn’t concern Caron much.

“They’re young, but they’ve been playing together a long time in the Cortland hockey community as well as their travel squads,” Caron said. “They’re pretty well-versed with each other. I saw them in the summer and they did a nice job working together in a more disjointed fashion. We’re young, but I think we have a lot of experience and we’re very deep, which it’s always nice to have a lot of horses in the barn.”

The two leading returners are junior Andrew Partigianoni and senior Tanner Douglass. Partigianoni notched 11 assists and Douglass had seven goals last season. Despite being one of the top returning players, Partigianoni doesn’t feel like he’s had to take on much extra leadership responsibility.

“I haven’t felt too much responsibility just because this is such a tight-knit group and we all pick each other up and work hard together,” the junior forward said.

Douglass believes that last year’s tough schedule and the number of returners will allow Cortland/Homer to thrive this season.

“It was great last year playing some of those tougher schools,” the senior forward said, “Every game’s tough, but I think we feel pretty confident moving into the season. I look forward to getting going and hopefully going all the way.”

The team’s first game is 7 p.m. Tuesday at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex.