Click here for Greater Long Island newsletters. Click here to download our iPhone app.
When a college or university launches a new athletic program from scratch, the foundation for future success is laid brick by brick.
For the Long Island University Men’s Hockey Program, that process began when the program was born for the 2020-21 season.
Now in their third season of Division I varsity college hockey, head coach Brett Riley and his staff continue to build the program and an important piece of the puzzle arrived this season from Western New York.
Buffalo native Noah Kane, a 5-11, 183-pound junior forward who transferred from Mercyhurst, is enjoying college life and his second tour of duty playing hockey on Long Island.
“I’ve loved it so far,” said Kane, a left-handed shot who has 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points this season over 20 games.
“I played juniors here a little bit so I had some previous experience but I can just see from the years just the growth of hockey. It seems like everyone is getting more involved and the youth teams enjoy coming to our games and that’s always fun for us to have these young kids come and support us.
“It’s really been a blast so far.”
Kane and the Sharks return to action on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. when they welcome Lindenwood University to Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.
Before arriving at LIU this season, Kane had previous experience playing at the Islanders’ official practice facility from his two seasons with the PAL Junior Islanders in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Over his two campaigns with the Jr. Isles, Kane totaled 23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points over 75 games.
His prior taste of hockey on Long Island certainly played a role in Kane’s decision to transfer here.
“I was just more familiar with the area,” said Kane. “There was a sense of comfort and it definitely had an impact. I played at Northwell before and had worked out with the training staff we have here before as well. Unintentionally, it worked out in a good way and I think it was easy for me to make the decision to come here.”
If Noah’s last name sounds familiar, it should: he is the younger cousin of Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane. There is a bit of an age difference between 23-year-old Noah and now 34-year-old Patrick, but Noah did get to play with and watch his cousin growing up in Buffalo.
“Mini-sticks here and there and I think we pretty much watched every game we could,” said Kane. “We went to go see some games. I just followed him as far back as I can remember and just emulate his style. He was definitely a huge influence on me and my brother and my whole family.”
Patrick’s future in Chicago is certainly up in the air.
There have been rumors that the rebuilding Blackhawks will be looking to trade Patrick, a free agent after this season, before the trading deadline and that begs the very important question…
Will Noah try to steer his cousin towards Long Island?
“I’m trying to persuade him to come close that’s for sure,” said Kane.
And it shouldn’t be too hard for Kane to sell anyone on Long Island as he has certainly come to appreciate the surroundings.
“Just the area with all of the beautiful houses,” said Kane. “I like the scenery. It’s a beautiful place. The beaches are close and there’s a lot to do.”
Especially at Eisenhower Park where Northwell Health Ice Center is located. It’s the home rink for both the LIU Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams and it provides both programs with a tremendous backdrop that includes inspiration from 50 years of Islanders hockey.
From the Stanley Cup banners that to the retired numbers to a showcase filled with trophies and awards, there’s no shortage of reminders of what the Islanders have meant to the Long Island community.
As an expansion team in 1972, the Islanders took some lumps early but it didn’t take long for them to become a playoff team and ultimately win four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983.
50 years later, the LIU Men’s team is still in its infancy and they are motivated by their surroundings.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Kane. “It’s motivation to look at the walls and to see the great names up there and it’s nice when kids come in and see the Islanders practicing or see us practicing and I think from that aspect they just really enjoy coming to the rink when you’re young and seeing these big-name players, taking it all in and realizing how special of an environment it is and the vast history has been there.”
This season, the Sharks are 6-15-1 including a 4-7-0 record on home ice. There has certainly been some progress this season including a 2-2 tie at Quinnipiac back in October and a 3-2 win at home over Ohio State on November 25th, the program’s first ever victory over a ranked opponent.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so Kane is just happy to be part the process in building a successful college hockey program.
“It’s definitely a privilege and an honor to represent the program early on,” said Kane. “And to create traditions and habits and that culture there in the locker room and just standing for something bigger and seeing the name of the program climbing up the rankings. It’s very rewarding internally.”
With three graduate students and three seniors on this year’s roster, Kane and the Sharks are expected to have a good number of players returning next season as the program continues to evolve. That leads to some excitement as the Sharks hope to take a big step forward in 2023-24.
And Kane is looking forward to being a part of it.
“We have a fairly young team,” said Kane. “Those guys need some experience and they’ve showed that they can played hard and play skilled and they’re very versatile. As they grow and get older and gain some confident, our team will definitely be in the right direction.”
Just like the road that the Islanders travelled from the rough start in the 1972 to the glory years of the 80’s, LIU is hoping to carve out a similar story and eventually become a college hockey powerhouse.
It will take some time, but Kane is happy to be part of the group that lays the groundwork.
“Being a new program, it’s difficult to have success right away and you have to look at is a process,” said Kane. “From what we’ve accomplished the past couple of months and looking at the progress of the team and individuals, we have to continue on this trajectory and we’re going to set ourselves up to be in a good spot in the future.”
And that future for the LIU Sharks is to hopefully have a trophy case of their own at Northwell Health Ice Center.