Friday, September 30, 2016

Captain Matias Cleland at UNH Hockey Media Day

UNH Captain Matias Cleland

The UNH Men's Hockey program held the annual Media Day on Wednesday afternoon at the Whittemore Center. Here are the proceedings of the press conference with Captain Matias Cleland:

Your thoughts on the coming season and where you guys are picked in the Hockey East Preseason Poll?

Captain Matias Cleland: "I looked at that once and will never look at it again. Obviously something you don't want to see - we're a little low (in the poll). But we understand how we ended up last season and I've been telling people it kind of left a pretty bad taste in our mouths.

We saw the rankings but they're the preseason rankings. It doesn't matter what they're talking about at the beginning of the season, it's what they're talking about at the end. We want to make some people think again about where they put us, but that's all that went into it. I looked at it once and probably won't look at it again."

Coach used one word "motivating". Is that how you see it?

Matias Cleland: "Ya, it definitely is. I think it upset some of us and it's not where we want to be. It's something we want to improve."

Based on last year, do you feel it's a fair assessment?

Cleland: "I would say, maybe with the ending wasn't how we wanted it, not only the ending but the whole year with the record and everything. I understand it."

What have you seen so far in the captain's practices?

Cleland: "I see a lot. I think the guys came back in really good shape. We're starting to get things down pretty quickly, implementing systems and stuff like that. I think Sunday's going to be a real test to gauge on where guys are at and where the team's at so we're pretty excited about that."

You've got to replace some production up front. Do you see, at least at the start, defense and goaltending as a strength of this team, until the offense gets straightened out?

Cleland: "Ya, I think we're going to need guys to step into roles and fill some shoes that left. It puts guys in great places. They get what they came here to do and allows them to succeed at where they want to be. I think some guys will step up and fill those shoes. In goaltending and defense, we've got some shoes to fill on the back end and help the forwards come along, but once they come into their own, we're going to be a good team."

What do you see your role back there?

Cleland: "For the defense as a whole or for myself?"


Cleland: "As a whole, we've just got to really help goaltenders see pucks. Allow them to make the first save and then we're clearing pucks out. We've got to be physical. We've go to get out to a good start. We've got to work on blocking shots as a whole, as a core.

For myself, it's just being a leader back there. Keeping things calm..things get a little hectic during games as you know. Just keeping the guys back there calm, leading by example, eliminating mistakes, and all those sorts of things are going to be a big time thing for me."

You mentioned blocking shots. The way you blocks shots, is that part of the leadership?

Cleland: "Ya, definitely. Blocking shots doesn't require a whole lot of skill (chuckle). It just requires you get in front of that puck. A lot of times you may not want to but it's something you've got to do."

How're you feeling about the goaltending situation for you guys going into the year? Obviously, Danny (Tirone) and Adam (Clark) both have experience and being able to go with either guy and feel comfortable.

Cleland: "I think it's a really good thing. They both push each other. They're kind of fighting for that number 1 spot. I think it's a good thing and we'll see what happens with it."

The freshman class - have you seen anyone that's impressed you who might be able to help right away, either up front or on the back end?

Cleland: "I think a lot of them will, actually. I think a lot of them are going to be able to step in and contribute right away. I'm pretty impressed with how they've looked in practice. We're really trying to make them comfortable and let them come in and contribute from the start because we're going to need them. They've been looking really good though."

How can the defense contribute to the offense? You lost quite a bit of production, just with three guys had almost half your goals a year ago. Can you guys help in that regard on the back end?

Cleland: "I think the biggest part we can help out is just getting pucks through on net and not getting shots blocked from the point. I think that will cause a lot of stuff down low, whether it's rebounds, whether it goes straight in. I think that's the main thing we need to focus on the offensive side of things just getting pucks through."

What do you feel like you have to do - obviously in, which is, year in and year out such a tough conference - to ultimately reach the NCAA (tournament)?

Cleland: "There's obviously a lot of skill in our league. I think we're just going to have to work hard not just Friday and Saturday nights but all week in practice and continue getting better every day. Because you've got teams like BU and Providence, you go down the list, who have a lot of skill. I think we each have to be on the same page, go day by day, and not look to far down the road..just take it a day at a time."

You mentioned something about a good start. How important will it be for you guys to get the season off on the right foot?

Cleland: "I think it's really important actually. Since I've been here, we've kind of struggled starting off. Once you get the ball moving and get some momentum, it definitely helps throughout the year. I think it's pretty important to get the team confident."

What did you guys learn from last season that you can maybe apply to this year?

Cleland: "I think we really learned a lot. We learned some really technical things from a team standpoint - what works and what doesn't. The most important thing is losing isn't fun (chuckle). All the little things that go into it that we really have to do in order to win. All those things we've learned and we need to do it every day. I think we've been doing that so far."

Congratulations on being the only captain. Is this the first time you've ever played on a team with just one captain and no alternates?

Cleland: "Thank you. I think so, yes it is."

Does it introduce more pressure on you or do you see advantages of being the only captain?

Cleland: "I don't think it adds any pressure to it. I think we have a large groups of leaders in that room. A lot of guys in the junior class, a lot of guys in my class are leaders and that's how we look at it. I think we're leading by committee and they're all going to be a leader, even if it's a sophomore or a freshman. We can all be leaders on the ice and especially off the ice."

It must have been frustrating last year, you lost a lot of close games. How can you turn that around?

Cleland: "I think being tougher on the back end, which I brought up earlier. That's a big part of it. Just being harder, hard nose in areas, winning one-on-one battles is going to be big time. The more one-on-one battles you win, you'll see statistically, you're probably going to win the game. That's a big piece of it."

How frustrating was it? You guys lost a lot of one-goal games, two-goal games. How frustrating does that become after a while?

Cleland: "It's definitely not fun. Those are heart-breakers and they hurt the confidence a bit. But there's definitely something to learn from those."

Anything you guys are looking to fine-tune in this exhibition game and the early games?

Cleland: "Ya, some of our systems - what works, what doesn't work. See some combinations on different lines and different D-pairings. You look at that from a coaches stand point - see what they like and don't like and go from there."


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