The No. 9 Oswego State women’s ice hockey team chose Andrew Lazzaro to be its new assistant coach over winter break. One might ask what Coach Lazzaro can bring to a team so late in its season and so close to playoff ice hockey.
“We wanted one earlier on obviously,” said head coach Diane Dillon. “We had some issues with the whole interviewing process. We wanted one on board all season and we were lucky to bring on Andrew as a part-time assistant in January.”
The Lakers are 16-4-1 overall and 12-3-1 in ECAC Women’s West play this year. Currently in third place behind the No. 2 Plattsburgh Cardinals; their conference record is already better than it was last season by two wins. They still have four more conference games this season against Stevenson College this weekend and the No. 1 Elmira College Soaring Eagles in two weeks.
“I think one of things you see is that teams often take after the traits of the personalities of their coaching staff and Lazz is a pretty level-headed guy,” Dillon said. “I think you’re seeing that in our team. We are not panicking. We might win a game in the third period but we know we are going to come out and work hard in that last 20 minutes. We try to create a calm atmosphere for the players and so far it is working.”
The women’s ice hockey team is not the only Oswego State team that Lazzaro is a part of. He has been helping out with the baseball team’s camps since the spring of 2009. He also played for the baseball team when he attended Oswego State.
Lazzaro has women’s ice hockey coaching experience under his belt as well. He has had some experience being the assistant head coach for the Oswego High School’s women’s hockey team. He started coaching them in the winter of 2009.
“It is a lot different,” Lazzaro said. “It is more structured. It is a faster game. Some things I wasn’t used to. The way the girls carry themselves and go about their pre-game rituals was similar to when I played baseball. Being on the bench for games is extremely neat. The girls work extremely hard. My first couple of games, I was trying to figure out my role and then I just went from there.”
Lazzaro also has worked specifically on goalie techniques at the goalie clinics he worked at from 2006 to 2008.
“I have actually been to some of the clinics he worked,” junior captain Tori Trovato said. “I was right there when he was coaching us, shooting on me when I was little. He definitely helps out. He has a great shot for goalies. He can pick his spots and he really helps us improve,” sophomore team captain Tori Torvato said.
On top of the coaching job. Lazzaro has re-enrolled here at Oswego State as an accounting major.
“I definitely have a full plate right now, but it is something I definitely enjoy,” Lazzaro said. “I enjoy coming here. I enjoy being around the team. I enjoy going to games. It is something I love to do.”
Dillon is approaching win number 100 for her career. She was the ECAC Women’s West Coach of the Year in her very first season. The team has improved dramatically over the past four seasons. They won their first ever post-season game in 2012. Last season, the Lakers recorded their best overall record in program history, 17-9-1, and now second-best ECAC Women’s West finish of 10-5-1.
“It is an honor to be working with Coach Dillon,” Lazzaro said. “To take a team this young all by herself and turn it into what they have become has been absolutely amazing. They were 7-2 when I came along. Coach Dillon deserves a lot of credit. She has been right there for me since my first day and is willing to help me in any way possible. The team has been outstanding with welcoming me aboard. They have been absolutely great in that regard. And it has been a privilege to be working with them. They’re a great bunch of girls who make it so easy to come to work every day.”
This Laker team is very young compared to last year’s team. Bridget Smith is the only senior on the team this season compared to last season’s total of nine.
“I think one of things that makes the transition easier is that Lazz is so close to their age,” Dillon said. “He has been to Lanigan and has sat in those lecture halls. I haven’t had that experience. I believe that it is the job for the assistant coach to know what is going on with the team. In order for him to do that the team has to trust him and I believe Lazz has done a very good job in building that.”
Although Lazzaro was hired so late in the season, the team has had a favorable reaction to the new addition.
“He brings a different perspective like all assistant coaches,” junior assistant captain Lizzy Marks said. “He does an excellent job with our offense, and he picks up on things that Coach Dillon doesn’t see herself.”
Lazzaro graduated from Oswego State in 2013. The team has seen that as an advantage.
“He only graduated two years ago so he isn’t that removed from the game,” Trovato said. “Even though he played baseball, he still has a lot of hockey knowledge and he can really relate to us as athletes which is really valuable to have as an assistant coach.”
Since Lazzaro has joined the team the Lakers are 9-2-1 and they have won their last five games.