In the first game of the 2017-18 season, the Hobart men’s hockey team squared off against Elmira. The teams traded goals, but it was the Soaring Eagles who came out victorious, 3-2, in overtime.

One of the team’s newcomers, Andrew Longo (Morristown, N.J.), was on hand for the contest, but he couldn’t help his team on the ice that night. Instead, he was up top, filming the game for the team to review at a later time.

It was a much different role than Longo was used to playing at Delbarton, but it was one he willingly accepted.

“If you ask any team, there’s always stuff that’s got to be done off the ice. The guys that don’t get in the lineup, we’ve got to do all this stuff, bring in the coolers, load the bus. Film happened to be one of them,” Longo said. “Coach (Mark) Phalon talked to me and asked me to film. It started with the first game against Elmira. I said, ‘Yeah, no problem.’”

“It was nothing I thought was too bad,” he added. “It was fun to stay up there. You sat alone and watched the game and paid attention more.”

“To be honest, I can’t say he did a bad job (filming),” Hobart head coach Mark Taylor said, laughing.

Fast forward to February and the team’s quarterfinal matchup against Southern Maine in the New England Hockey Conference Tournament and Longo’s role on the team has changed a great deal. Longo scored a goal and added an assist in the team’s 8-0 victory.

“When you’re knocking at the door,” Taylor said about Longo, “you quietly make your opportunities, too.”

As Longo’s high school career neared an end, he was unsure of what the next step was. He was debating between taking a postgrad year at Avon Old Farms or going to Hobart, where his sister went and won a national championship with the soccer team.

Longo said he got his decision from Avon late in the process, but by then he decided he wanted to go to college. Unfortunately for him, Hobart’s roster was full. Taylor encouraged him to stay involved with hockey that year, however, by playing club and at summer showcases.

“We watched him play in a lot of those,” Taylor said. “He was determined to be a part of the program.”

Wanting to both play hockey and meet new friends, Longo took Taylor up on his advice and joined the Hobart club hockey team as well as playing for the Rochester Monarchs in the United States Premier Hockey League. In the summer, he played in multiple tournaments with AP Selects.

After much observation, Longo had earned a spot on the Hobart roster.

“What drives it all is he’s a fearless, hard player with skills and skating,” Taylor said. “I’d be selling the kid short if I didn’t say his loyalty and humbleness. I’d even put that ahead of his fearlessness. He’s just a great kid. He’ll do whatever you ask him to do. You ask him to play more hockey in the summer so you can watch him, and he did.”

The early going was not easy for Longo.

It would take five games before Longo made his collegiate debut in a conference game against Castleton. Hobart won the game, 6-1, and Longo scored two goals. Longo would receive another opportunity to play three games later against Babson, a game that resulted in a 3-3 tie that Longo said he “didn’t have my best game.”

That was Nov. 18. He wouldn’t see ice time again until Jan. 19, 10 games later.

“It was tough for me in the beginning, but I kind of realized I was going to have to fight for a spot and prove myself that I could hang with these guys,” he said. “The environment the team had, it was nothing I had ever seen. We were like a family almost. That kind of gave me some confidence. I had a lot of guys tell me, ‘Hey, you’ll get your shot. Just stay with it. Stay competitive and work hard at practice, and your shot will come.’”

“I think what really helped me was, after a few weeks of playing, Coach Taylor moved me back to ‘D,’” Longo added. “I understood what he was getting me to do, to develop a defensive game. That probably helped me the most, seeing the opposite side of the puck and developing from there. … it opened up my vision on the ice. I think that was a big part.”

His next opportunity came, again, against Castleton, and Longo delivered. He scored one goal and added two assists, helping Hobart win the game, 9-1, and earning NEHC Rookie of the Week honors.

Longo played in six of the team’s next eight games, earning at least one point in four of the six games, totaling four goals and two assists. In the nine games Longo played through Feb. 24, he earned a point in six of them for a total of seven goals and four assists.

That second victory over Castleton stopped a three-game losing streak and four-game winless streak. The team’s record since Longo returned to the lineup in the second game against Castleton: 8-0-1.

“He’s doing a lot of different things,” Taylor said of Longo’s current level of play. “He’s got a hot stick now. That’s a big plus. I’d be selling him short if it was just point production. He’s willing to take a hit, willing to give a hit. It’s all those pieces that add up to a package and to play in a game.”

Longo’s journey to earn consistent ice time was not easy, but he took advantage of the opportunity when it arrived.

“Staying strong, staying competitive helped me,” Longo said. “Once I got in the flow of things and realized I’d be playing more, it was kind of a routine. I stayed after it and kept the same mindset about staying competitive and staying with it. The guys on the team said, ‘Keep playing the way you’re playing, man, and you’ll stay in the lineup.’ That’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s worked out.”