It was a very successful hockey season for Tyson Empey and the State University of New York College at Geneseo men’s hockey team.
The former Flin Flon Bomber and the Knights won their second consecutive State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) championship. In addition, the SUNY-Geneseo squad made it all the way to the NCAA Division III semifinals.
“It’s a strong conference so being able to come out on top in back-to-back years means a lot to our team and community,” said Empey, who noted it was pretty special to win both championships on home ice in front of passionate fans. “The Frozen Four was a great experience and although it was great to be there, we weren’t satisfied with our play. We got a taste of the NCAA tournament and what it takes to win and are hoping to be back for a better outcome next season.”
Empey certainly was a big part of the Knights’ success. For the second straight season, the forward from Swift Current was named to the SUNYAC Second All-Star Team. Empey was second on the Knights with 14 goals in 29 games. His 11 powerplay goals placed him second in the NCAA Division III nationally. Empey finished fifth on the team with 32 points. Knights head coach Christopher Schultz said Empey has many strengths, but his drive stands out.
“Tyson is the perfect example to all young athletes, junior players, and even college players, in that you always get out what you put into it,” he said. “Tyson is not a natural goal scorer. Yet, he has been able to be one of the leading goal scorers in the country over the last two seasons based on his willingness to put extra time in outside of practice time. He has intrinsic motivation. It all comes from within. This, oftentimes, is not coachable. Sometimes it is, but mostly not.”
While teams certainly know Empey, Schultz said the hockey IQ of the son of former pro Larry Empey is overlooked a little bit.
“Tyson is a very smart player,” the SUNY Geneseo head coach said. “He simplifies things which makes his game even better. I’m very much convinced that hockey IQ is in the bloodstream. His father was a very good hockey player, so the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”
While Empey has had individual success with the Knights, he takes great pride in what the team has accomplished. He notes it only lost twice this season and attracted attention around the country.
“It made not only our home games more full and exciting, but we also got every road team’s best crowds and got every team’s best effort,” Empey said. “It’s fun playing with a target on your back and competing for the number one ranking all season. College is a lot shorter season than juniors, so it makes for a more playoff like atmosphere for a lot of games.”
While he had other options after wrapping up his career with the Bombers, Empey said that Geneseo has been a great fit for him.
“The academics are great and have allowed me to enrol in graduate school for accounting next year, as well as earn two internships to help boost my accounting resume,” he said.
“As far as hockey goes, there aren’t many D-3 hockey programs that are at the level of Geneseo. The fan base and support we get is pretty surreal and it’s a lot of fun knowing that the IRA (Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena) is going to be packed every night.”
Empey suited up for four seasons in Flin Flon, from 2012 to 2016. He captained the Bombers to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League finals in his final campaign with the team. Empey said the togetherness of that squad is similar to what exists on his SUNY-Geneseo conference title team.
“We are all great friends and spend a lot of time together here in Geneseo and the team we had in Flin Flon was exactly the same. We wanted to play for each other and believed we could achieve something great and I think that went a long way for both teams down the stretch,” he said.
Empey’s favourite memories of his time in Flin Flon are the 2016 playoff run and the postseason brawl that occurred when Weyburn attempted a heist of the celebratory moose leg.
“The way the town supported us with our send-offs and making the long road trips to Weyburn, North Battleford, and Melfort to watch was pretty crazy,” Empey said. “Lots of my other best memories are from ice fishing and hunting with my billets, the Biberdorfs, and the rest of the guys.”