From The Denisonian
By Jakob Lucas
0-20, that was the record of Denison University’s Men’s Hockey in 2019 when they made the jump from Division III of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) to ACHA Division II.
Then, COVID-19 prevented the ACHA from holding a season last year. Now, Denison has planted themselves on the map with a strong 9-3-0-1 record through 13 games this season.
As the 2021 season began, the Big Red didn’t know what to expect but were determined to be a better team than in 2019. It’s safe to say they have achieved just that.
Denison has won eight straight games and shows no signs of slowing down after dominant 4-0 and 11-5 wins over Butler University and Case Western Reserve University respectively this past weekend.
Denison’s turnaround is evident and puts them on many teams’ radar. The Big Red proudly stand at #5 in ACHA Division II with the 16th best record in the entire ACHA.
Coach Jeff German is proud of his team’s incredible turnaround and notes that a big difference between this season and their previous win-less one has been the leadership and overall change in team culture.
“The primary difference this year is our leadership core. Our Captains have really taken charge of the room. The whole team in general has a sedulous ethos. Everyone understands their role and their commitment to the team. It’s magical”
This year Men’s Hockey has three captains in Joey Holman ’22, John Svendsen ’23 and Oliver Gignoux ’23. There are also two assistant captains: Michael Goldman ’22 and Trevor Seitz ’23.
Denison’s 0-20 season still carries a lot of weight. For the juniors and seniors on the team who remember the rough introduction to Division II, the experience serves as fuel for them to push forward:
“Getting your head kicked in for 20 straight games two seasons ago has a way of tempering players who have an innate burning desire to compete and win. That beating we took in our first season in DII made the Captains (Juniors and Seniors) hardened and battle worthy. They don’t accept any effort from teammates that gives them indication of the team moving backwards. It’s written on our locker room wall ‘ALL GAS, NO BRAKES’” Coach German says.
Coach German also knows the team has made great strides forward in the past two seasons which have played a major factor in the team’s newfound success.
He notes “Top to bottom our team measures up with our opponents much better than previous seasons. Our depth has improved to the point where we are able to manage the game from the bench better than previous years. Due to COIVD-19 cancelling our 2020/21 season, if you combine Sophomores and First Year players, over 75% of our team had not played a college hockey game prior to this season. I feel like no one takes this for granted anymore. They come to play and practice with much more intensity than years past.”
DU Men’s Hockey has a tough few match ups ahead in University of Michigan, Ohio University, Central Michigan University, Indiana University.
As these games approach, Denison needs to ensure they continue working on their biggest weaknesses.
Coach German says “We are constantly improving. We have a motto on the team ‘We before Me.’ I see everyone playing selfless hockey and giving all they can for the good of the team. We need to clean up our defensive play and we are a little sloppy in the neutral zone, but overall we are trending in the right direction.”
Taking into account the large student body of DU’s future opponents compared to Denison’s relatively small one, it’s remarkable that the Big Red are competing so competitively against these schools, with some of them topping 50,000 students.
Coach German knows that these teams are strong and will make for tough competition but remains optimistic about Denison’s chances.
“We have some formidable opponents ahead of us this year… these games are going to be struggles, but we are equal to the task. It’s exciting hockey to be a part of.”
Catch Men’s Hockey back in action this Friday, October 29, against Indiana Tech at Lou and Gib Reese Ice Arena in Newark, Ohio.
(Originally published at https://denisonian.com/2021/10/sports/denison-mens-hockey-how-the-team-completely-turned-itself-around/)