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From Pushovers to Playoffs: Kennesaw State’s Comeback Story

By: Danny Baum

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KSU Comeback Story


Just over a year after losing their 12th and final game of the season, the Kennesaw State Owls sit in third place in the College Hockey South Division 3 standings. The Owls have recorded points in nine of their ten division games and clinched a spot in the Division 3 playoffs in Lakeland, FL. An inconceivable turnaround on multiple levels has empowered the Owls to a remarkable season. 


The 2022-23 Kennesaw State Owls were the perennial punching bag for their opponents. They were routinely outplayed, outcoached, and severely outscored. The Owls finished with a record of 2-12, and in their losses, they lost by an average of five goals. This kind of embarrassment sparked change for KSU, and it started behind the bench.


The team hired a familiar face, Kyle Stevenson, to be the new bench boss. Stevenson had previously coached several members of the Kennesaw State roster in the Atlanta Fire program, and the familiarity has bred success. 


“[Stevenson] was my and a couple other guy’s U18 coach and took us to nationals both years,” said Kennesaw State goalie Connor Lakly. “...He’s been able to transfer that success to the college game really well”.


The impact of Stevenson’s coaching has been felt by players who haven’t played for him before as well.


“[Stevenson] has played a major role in getting this team back on track,” second-leading goal scorer Chris Scott said. “He is very good at keeping the team moving forward and leading with the right mentality”


Perhaps the leading cause for this year’s improvement is Kennesaw State’s defense. In 2022-23, the Owls allowed just over seven goals per game while only scoring about 2.5 goals per game. In 2023-24, Kennesaw State’s goals-against average is just over three goals a game.


The Owls have arguably the best goalie tandem in the Division 3 ranks, and their numbers make it hard to deny. 


Newcomer Taveon Dees has gone 5-1-1 with a 2.86 goals-against average and a (.933) save percentage. The latter two statistics rank eleventh and fourth in the conference, respectively. Connor Lakly sports a record of 4-3 while stopping close to 91 percent (eighth in D3) of the shots he’s faced and allowing 3.43 goals per game (16th in D3).


Future KSU hockey President James Kravis spoke to the effectiveness of the team’s goalies.


“Between Connor and Taveon, I think we have the two best goalies in the league. So it does give us a confidence boost to know we have those guys behind us,” said Kravis.


The trust felt on the bench has inspired Kennesaw State to play less as individual players and more as a cohesive team. 


“All around we are much more focused on playing as a unit and giving our all for our brothers alongside us,” said team captain Adrian Pape. 


A comeback story that has yet to be finished with the playoffs still on the horizon. But regardless of the result, this season will be a source of pride for the Kennesaw State team and their fans. 


ABOUT College Hockey South: Founded in 2008, College Hockey South is a 29-school, 46 team intercollegiate hockey conference spanning seven southeastern U.S. states that competes in AAU College Hockey. College Hockey South is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization.

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