Donning the “C”
Andrew Lucas growing into his role as a second-year captain for UVM men’s hockey
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After some tough seasons, the UVM men’s hockey team is showing some signs of life as they try to return to relevancy in Hockey East and the national picture. The Cats of course are still learning the system under second year head coach Tood Woodcroft, but he’s trusting his right hand man on the ice to help the guys get with the program.
“That was a driving factor in it, that there would be somebody that I felt we clicked right off the bat,” said Woodcroft of Andrew Lucas. “We had the same vision, we had long, deep discussions. He had no idea that the captaincy was coming.”
It’s not every day that you see a junior named captain of a college sports team. It’s even rarer for that captain to be in his second year donning the “C”. But that’s exactly the situation UVM defenseman Andrew Lucas finds himself in this Winter.
“I’ve just gotten more comfortable with it,” Lucas said. “I mean it’s easy with the guys in this room. Like I said there’s so many leaders that are vocal and it takes a lot of the pressure off of me personally but there’s really not that much to begin with just because we have so much veteran leadership.”
Woodcroft says he knew Lucas was the right choice early on because of how he treats his teammates.
“He drives this group, he drives them hard, but he’s also a part of them,” Woodcroft said. “I think the best leaders are the ones who create an environment for their teammates to succeed. That’s what Andrew does. Andrew’s the kind of guy that would pick somebody up at the airport at 11 o’clock at night in the Summer when they’re coming in for Summer program. He’s the kind of guy that would make sure somebody has food and is getting fed during the times when they wouldn’t have food. That’s the kind of captain and leader that he is.”
And Woodcroft believes the key to success for his program is to have his captain serve as a partner, an extension of the coaching staff. Someone who can keep the coaches up to date on the vibes in the locker room.
“It’s a partnership between players and coaches I don’t think existed 15 or 20 years ago,” Woodcroft said. “I think coaches nowadays, the modern ones, are the ones who work for the players, certainly the ones who work with the players. So I’m very proud of the personal relationship I have with Andrew, that the other coaches have with Andrew. It’s similar to the last team I worked on (the Winnipeg Jets). The head coach (Paul Maurice) and Blake Wheeler, the captain, they would have lunch together and just talk. And sometimes it’s not about hockey, it’s about what’s the temperature of the team? What’s the health of the team right now? What’s going on, who needs some love?”
Woodcroft admitted that longevity was certainly a factor when he named Lucas captain as a sophomore, but especially considering how challenging last year was, Lucas says that experience and familiarity is paying dividends.
“We felt like we were hitting our stride towards the end of the season last year,” Lucas said. “But I mean last year it felt like every weekend was our first game of the year because we had so many pauses and shutdowns. So you can really see how this year without any breaks, we’re building as a team and we’re getting better with our systems and our structure every day. And even just like the little details that coaches can get on us and you can build off each weekend and each day. Whereas last year there’s so many times where we’re just sitting in our rooms.”
For right now though, Lucas is less focused on the long-term direction of the program than he is about helping his squad be ready to compete night in and night out in one of the toughest college hockey conferences in the country.
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