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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ceglarski named Head Coach of men’s hockey, strives to restore program to prominence

Jack Ceglarski guided the men’s hockey to one of their strongest seasons in recent years.
Jack Ceglarski guided the men’s hockey to one of their strongest seasons in recent years.

The Middlebury men’s hockey team has a rich tradition of success, with eight national titles, eight NESCAC championships and 47 All-American selections on its resumé. Despite these accolades, the Panthers have struggled in recent history. The team has not had a winning record since the 2012-13 season, and has not won the NESCAC championship since the 2009-10 season. 

But the team’s new head coach, Jack Ceglarski, is on track to change that. Under the guidance of Ceglarski as interim head coach this past season, the team won eight games, earned success against high-caliber teams and captured an upset victory against second-seeded Bowdoin College in the NESCAC quarterfinals. Most importantly though, Ceglarski ignited a change in the team’s mindset. 

Captain and leading scorer Jin Lee ’25 was impressed by the new coach’s approach this past season.

“The change in attitude that he instilled in us is very evident,” Lee said. “He makes it fun to be there, and that is important because we spend so much time together throughout the year.” 

Lee said he and his teammates were not surprised when Ceglarski was officially named the head coach of the program on March 28. 

Ceglarski is unquestionably well-versed in the hockey world. His playing career consisted of four years in college at SUNY Geneseo, a prominent DIII hockey school, and then a short stint professionally in the East Coast Hockey League. He then began his coaching career as an assistant at the University of New England before moving on to the University of Notre Dame. 

Ceglarski finally found his way to Middlebury as an assistant before the 2021-22 season with a plethora of knowledge after working with high level coaches and winning a number of trophies as both a player and coach. His attachment to Middlebury extends much further back, however, as his father attended the school and played for the hockey team. Because of his father, Ceglarski has long known of and respected Middlebury for its academic and athletic excellence. 

“I want to create an environment of trust, honesty, and respect,” he said. “We as a program need to respect where our feet are and appreciate every second we have together. We are at a special place.” 

In spite of his strong list of credentials and his impressive start to his tenure, Ceglarski emphasized that as a relative novice to the business of head coaching, he still has much to learn. 

“I’m adjusting on the fly and learning as I go,” he said. “I’m lucky to be surrounded by a group of guys who are hungry to turn this program around, as well as the tremendous support system of Middlebury athletics.” 

Lee affirmed Ceglarski’s ability to communicate with and learn from his players, emphasizing his appreciation for a coach who listens to his players. 

When it comes to play style, Ceglarski placed emphasis on defensive discipline and frustrating opponents. This defensive efficiency was evident in a number of the Panthers’ victories, particularly their impressive 5–1 playoff win against Bowdoin.

“We want to play responsible and structured. If you’re structured without the puck, you’ll get it back and have opportunities the other way,” Ceglarski said. 

Lee echoed the importance of structure in the Panther’s game, but also acknowledged the freedom which Ceglarski allows his players to have in the offensive part of the game. The team scored 59 goals across the season, marking a major improvement from the 43 they tallied the year before. 

“We have a free flowing offense and have the green light to try riskier plays that most coaches would frown upon,” Lee said. “Just don’t get your shot blocked is what [Ceglarski] tells us.” 

While they may have come away with a losing record, the Panthers certainly had their moments throughout last season. After a tough start to the year, Middlebury recorded an impressive victory over #11 Norwich University 3–0, which sparked a 4–1–1 record over their next six games. This stretch aided in Middlebury’s playoff push, where they were able to beat Bowdoin 5–1, marking the first career playoff victory under Ceglarski’s guidance. The Panthers went on to fall 5–2 to Trinity College, the eventual NESCAC champion and NCAA DIII finalist. 

The Bantams were one of the many strong teams Middlebury played closely to throughout the season, and both Ceglarski and Lee recognized the team’s need to focus on perfecting the details this offseason leading into next year. 

“We need to learn how to win as a program,” he said. “You have to play a full 60 minutes in this league because it is so low scoring. You cannot fall asleep for a second.” 

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Middlebury tasted success this past season, and although the ice is gone from Kenyon until next season, the team is already back to work in the weight room, determined to improve on this season’s results next winter.


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