By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
It’s never a bad idea to up the level of your goals once initial goals have been attained. That is certainly an approach that has paid dividends for former Boston Junior Bruin and current College of the Holy Cross Crusader Mack Oliphant.
“Coming into the season last year, I kind of set a couple goals for myself. Being a freshman and not knowing the situation you’re coming into, my No. 1 goal was to be in the lineup and be in it consistently,” said Oliphant. “As the season progressed more and those initial goals were reached, I made my new goal to make the Atlantic Hockey Association All-Rookie Team, which correlates towards having a good year and also helped push my team to help us to the conference finals.”
Indeed, when the dust had settled, Oliphant was named to the AHA All-Rookie team at the defense position, coming off a 41-game season over which he posted a 2-10-12 line for the Crusaders.
“The No. 1 thing to learn as a freshman is to trust yourself. Don’t get too down or too high up, just focus on the next shift and forget about what might have just happened,” added Oliphant. “For me, my main focus is always on the defensive side, though I think I show some flashes of being able to play upfront and make plays happen on the offensive side. However, as a freshman, my No. 1 goal was to be more of a lockdown defenseman who stays consistent in his own end and to close on guys to create turnovers, and get the puck up to the forwards. When I felt more comfortable in my role, I started to take some risks offensively – skate it more, shoot it more – and play a pretty versatile game.”
He showed just how much of a versatile player he could be during his single season of Junior Bruins hockey during the 2020-21 season, which included the Hub City Tampa six-week event taking up much of the second half of the season.
‘Coach Mike Anderson put good options on the table for me, for my development, and being guaranteed to play a full season in hockey, which would be the best thing for me’ – Mack Oliphant, on his reasons for signing with the NCDC’s Boston Junior Bruins in 2020-21.
“I’m from Chicago, but was playing prep hockey at Lawrence Academy, and COVID-19 struck, so everyone was scrambling for places to play. I did a couple showcases and had a nice conversation with Coach [Mike] Anderson. He put good options on the table for me, for my development, and being guaranteed to play a full season in hockey, which would be the best thing for me,” said Oliphant. “The whole Hub City Tampa experience and making the move to junior hockey shaped who I am and how I play right now. It developed me into being a better player.”
Different high-level players were always joining the Junior Bruins during that season, so Oliphant always had to keep his personal game up and at its highest level to keep his spot in the lineup.
“That season was the most adversity I’ve had to go through. It was first year of being on a team where there were scratches, trades, new kids being brought in, and I was playing against kids who were just turning 21 years old,” added Oliphant. “That was when it was real, when it became more of a cutthroat ‘how bad do you want the time’ situation – and that made me know how bad I wanted to play this game. And being able to win a lot also helped.”
With Hub City Tampa, the NCDC set up a situation in which the teams could complete the season amidst various COVID-related regulations, but to do so in a system where players were largely isolated, only able to travel to between Saddlebrook Resort and the rinks where they played, a “closed community” approach. It worked and each NCDC team got to play 21 games in Florida.
“I for one was pretty excited. It’s almost January and February in Boston, and the weather’s negative degrees and I get the call that we’re going for two months to Tampa, Fla., to live on a resort with two golf courses, to live with your teammates and you are absolutely going to practice and play games and not have to worry about getting shut down every day,” he added. “We knew when our games would be, what our schedule would look like. It’s not something that many kids will ever experience in their hockey career.”
That year, Oliphant and the Junior Bruins went 30-9-2-1 and made the NCDC semifinals in Pittston, Pa. (home of fellow NCDC members the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights). He finished with an individual line of six assists in 41 combined regular season and playoff games, and he helped the Junior Bruins to a +61 goal differential, one of the league’s best that season.
Hub City Tampa wasn’t the only huge event that Oliphant took part in during his career. As a 12-year-old member of the Chicago Young Americans, he also got to take part in the Quebec International Peewee Tournament.
“To this day, that’s probably the coolest experience of my career. Just being in Quebec, not just for hockey but during the Winter Carnival and me and my teammates went to the quarterfinals that year,” added Oliphant. “Walking into the rink, and seeing the school buses of kids coming from schools to attend the games – you’d see 4,000 to 5,000 people in the stands to watch Peewee hockey. I almost wish I could go back and relive it and take it in a little more.”
He also knows he has to live in the present, and of course, that means getting ready for what should be a huge Year 2 for Oliphant with Holy Cross.
“I want to be a key contributor to getting us back to that conference championship and getting a win, a a different result, and getting to the NCAA tournament, that will always be goal one: to win and succeed as a team,” said Oliphant. “Ideally, I would like to try to make an all-conference team in my second year, because in doing so I can bring that success to the team and I feel like those correlate. When you have a couple guys producing and working hard, it brings the whole team up and everybody starts producing more, and it’s a chain reaction.”
The NCDC congratulates Mack Oliphant on his fantastic season with the College of the Holy Cross and wishes him the best of luck for future success.