From Grand Valley Lanthorn
By Holly Bihlman
As the 2021-22 hockey season finally unfolds, the Grand Valley State University men’s club hockey team took to the ice for the first time in two years, flaunting their new Division I status. The Lakers played at the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s rink the first night, and then at the Walker Ice and Fitness arena in back-to-back games during the weekend on Sept. 24-25, coming home to a packed house on Saturday.
This season’s team is presented with several unusual challenges, one of them being their young roster. With 14 freshmen on the team, seven sophomores who haven’t seen any game experience yet, only seven veteran players, and 0 seniors, their first couple of games are expected to be a show of their game time performance.
With two losses after the weekend, coach Carl Trosien is more focused on their positives than their negatives.
“Last night (Friday, Sept. 24) we were nervous, we’re young, obviously, so I think that kind of got to us in that atmosphere down there,” Trosien said. “It’s Michigan with the helmets and the jerseys, and I think it takes some time to realize you belong out there, and tonight (Saturday, Sept. 25) I think we were more prepared for that. We still got some things we have to clean up but for the most part, it was encouraging.”
The Lakers lost their first game 3-7 with their first goal of the season scored in the first period by freshman wing, Josh Suzio, while UM Dearborn scored two goals. In the second period, UM put another two goals in the back of the net, and junior wing, Shane Haggerty, scored for the Lakers. By the end of the third, UM put another three goals on the board while freshman defender, Bryan Clahassey, put the final puck in the net for GVSU.
“It’s one of the top ten teams in the country, so it was definitely good for us,” Trosien said. “The young kids got some experience, but I think the young ones might’ve been a little shell shocked.”
The advantages of having the back-to-back games almost every weekend this season also gives them the opportunity to make improvements after each game for a better outcome the next night.
“Seeing how good we are at making adjustments on the fly, we can go from night A to night B, make those adjustments, and see how well the boys respond with what we give them,” Trosien said. “And then we know where their hockey IQ is at and we know how much we can tweak.”
On Sept. 25 the Lakers came home to play the Wolverines again, this time to stands full of GVSU support. In the first period of their second game, UM scored one goal about halfway through, but it was followed up by a goal in the second period by junior wing, Zach Borchardt, with an assist from junior wing, Zach Kippe.
The duo wasn’t done after just one goal together; in the first few minutes of the third the two repeated their success with the only other goal the Lakers would score that night. UM ended the game with three goals in the second and another two in the third, taking home their second win 2-5.
“I think we did a pretty good job of staying positive today,” said junior defender Tyler Hoffman. “You know, it’s obviously no fun getting goals scored on you but keep your head up, try and keep a smile on your face, stay positive, and don’t get down on each other and things tend to turn around pretty quick usually for you. Not the outcome we wanted but the guys did a really good job of responding.”
The Lakers also experienced a little frustration out on the ice, mostly due to the lack of game-time experience the younger teammates have. Four guys sat in the penalty box during the game after a few goals in their net from UM.
“As the game gets faster, it’s going to get a lot more simple,” Hoffman said. “There were a few times where we got caught running around and that’s going to happen when you’ve got a young group. They just have to get used to the pace of play, so I think we’re just going to break everything down even more, make it as simple as possible.”
The game quickly turned around after their second goal however, and the guys on the team started to see a little more positivity and teamwork with each other. It was also a huge boost to have such a large crowd making noise for their goals and it helped show some of the younger athletes on the team their potential.
“I think we learned how talented we are,” Hoffman said. “I know we’re young, not a lot of guys have played at this level. They’re (UM) a top fifteen team in the country, and we can come out and compete with them for the most part, so I think that was pretty eye-opening to a lot of guys. They see how successful they can be at this level, and we’re only going to grow from here, so it’s just a confidence boost for the guys.”
This week during practices, the team is going to start preparations for their back-to-back games against Aquinas College.
“(There were) lots of chances around the net where we just couldn’t finish, so we’ve got to be stronger on our sticks than that,” Trosien said. “We have to get more shots and generate more from a high percentage scoring area, and defensively I think we can get the puck out of our zone a little big cleaner.”
The Lakers will face off against Aquinas College on Oct. 1 at Griff’s Georgetown ice rink for their third game of the season at 8:30 p.m.
(Originally published at https://lanthorn.com/84248/sports/84248/)