Junior forward Sean Nealis leads the club team in scoring.
Last year, the ice hockey club finished its season with a trip to American Collegiate Hockey Association Nationals. But this year’s leading scorer didn’t make the trip.
Junior forward Sean Nealis’ absence from the team was not due to any type of injury, but rather due to the fact he was cut from tryouts at the beginning of the 2010 season.
Things have gone a little differently for Nealis this year, who decided to give Temple club ice hockey one more try. The decision to try out for the team again later proved to benefit the team as much as it benefitted himself.
“[Nealis] had more focus and intensity,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “Last year he just showed up and went through the motions, this year he showed up with an agenda.”
“It was a hit to the morale,” Nealis said of being cut. “The team went to nationals last year though, so they obviously knew what they were doing.”
Now, after 15 games, Nealis has gone from low man on the totem pole to the top, leading the Owls in points with six goals and seven assists.
“[Nealis] is a pure sniper,” senior forward and assistant captain Taylor Lockhart said. “If he gets the puck to his stick in the slot, it’s going in the net.”
Even after being cut last year, Nealis explained that he had always planned to try out again this year. More focus on his shot, shooting a couple hundred twice a week, and working harder on getting in shape on and off the ice gave Nealis the boost he needed to make the team this year.
Whether it’s getting the goal, making the smart pass, taking or dishing out a good hit, Nealis finds a way to get it done, Roberts said.
“[Nealis] doesn’t look for that extra flashy play and because of that he never misses an opportunity to score,” Roberts said.
Nealis’ teammates describe his style of play as being “weird” and “unorthodox.”
“[Nealis] has some type of ‘it factor,’” junior defenseman Matt Benedetto said. “It is something you wouldn’t just notice in a drill which is probably why he got cut last year.”
“It looks like he is about to mess up every time,” freshman defenseman Chris Carnivalle added. “Then it just works for him.”
It works for him, and for the team. The Owls, who were off to a rough start this season, have won their last three games, in which Nealis tallied two goals and three assists.
“It feels good to be looked at as a key player,” Nealis said. “It is good for the confidence knowing that people are looking at you and every time you get the puck on your stick, they get excited.”
In addition to his skills, Nealis finds a way to bring the team together on and off the ice.
“[Nealis] is just a great guy,” Lockhart said. “He is a lot of fun in the locker room, a lot of fun on the bench, off the ice and at home. He is always having fun with everyone.”
Sam Grinnan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.