From The Grand Valley Lanthorn
By Holly Bihlman
As the men’s DI club hockey team gears up for seat announcements in the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League (GLCHL) Conference at the end of the month, team captains Zach Borchardt and Shane Haggerty already have a great deal to celebrate.
Just three weeks ago, Haggerty hit his 50th point in the 2021-22 season, followed by Borchardt’s 50th season point just two weeks ago. Along with this accomplishment, Borchardt also hit his 50th career goal earning himself the Franchise All-Time Goals Per Season record with 39; though, the pair of captains are practically in-step with each other when it comes to putting pucks in the back of the net.
With their back-to-back games this past weekend against Michigan State University, they both raked in their 100th American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) career points to top it all off. With their various GLHCL Player of the Week honors throughout this season alone, it’s no surprise the team captains have made such an impact on Grand Valley State University’s club hockey program in the two seasons they’ve played together.
Although their journeys started when they were both barely old enough to hold a hockey stick, Borchardt found his way into midwestern hockey culture a little bit later than Haggerty did.
“I’m originally from St. Louis Missouri, so hockey is not — well it’s getting there — but it wasn’t as big as it is here,” Borchardt said. “My dad never played, my mom never played, but for some reason they just got me started into it at like, two or three, and I haven’t really looked back since.”
Growing up watching the St. Louis Blues with his younger brother and dad, Borchardt wasn’t exposed to the kind of hockey that is played in Michigan until the end of sixth grade when they made the jump up north to get closer to family.
While Borchardt and his brother have always enjoyed hockey with each other, his two younger sisters are dancers, often splitting his parents up between competitions, tournaments, games and weekends.
Haggerty’s mom on the other hand, has come incredibly close to attending every game that he’s played, but since he’s grown up here, it’s not so hard for her to make them all.
“I’m from Grandville so my home rink is the rink we play at now,” Haggerty said. “So, nothing has really changed for me. After high school I played at Metro Detroit for a year and then came here, but most of my hockey career’s been through that rink down 48th Ave, so it’s been fun.”
With his sister’s softball season always being opposite to his hockey seasons, it makes it easier to have her support there along with a handful of the other parents, Borchardt’s dad included.
Since Haggerty decided to come to GVSU for the Sports Management program after playing for the junior league Metro Jets for a year, he’s been able to continue his love for the game throughout college. Borchardt knew he wanted to come to GVSU for Accounting and Finance before he knew how much he wanted to play hockey too.
“I had decided I was going to come to GV and just kind of be a student at GV and be fine with not playing hockey,” Borchardt said. “Then one of my buddies who I played against in high school was one of the returners (on GVSU’s hockey team), and he was like, ‘if you want to play, we have a spot,’ and I just said, ‘I’m fine, thanks.’ And then I went to my brother’s tryouts for the high school team, just to watch, and then I was like, ‘oh, yeah. I kind of miss it.’”
After having the opportunity to play on the same team as the younger Borchardt in high school, he’s been able to make some amazing memories as part of that duo over the years.
“My senior year of high school, he (Borchardt’s younger brother) was a sophomore and made our varsity team, and we went on to win the state championship that year,” Borchardt said. “There were so many memories from that year that have just been great to think about and even still relive them all the time. That year overall is probably the best year I’ve had hockey-wise, and even after the state championship game, being there to hug him and being there together was incredible.”
Haggerty’s story from that same year went a little differently.
“I came close to the state championship my junior year,” Haggerty said. “I ended up losing to him (Borchardt), actually. Senior year we kind of chocked, but playing junior hockey was pretty awesome, because it’s like playing in college, but you don’t have to go to school. It was just 24/7 hockey, so we got really close with the teammates and it was really fun.”
While the two have had their fair share of ups and downs through all the different teams and seasons, the one thing that they, along with every athlete now shares, is overcoming the year off with COVID-19.
“We’ve both played hockey our entire lives,” Borchardt said. “Having a year off when we’re 19/20-years-old after having 16/17 years of continuous hockey was more of just like, a weird feeling I think more than anything.”
The pair seemed to use that extra year off to do some similar things without a season going on in their busy lives.
“The year off made me really start to loosen up and not get so frustrated about certain things,” Haggerty said. “Because for me, it made me realize I only have a couple years left, so I started to enjoy it a lot more. It’s really made a big impact on me.”
Borchardt concurred, dedicating a little bit of the pandemic to their combined maturity on the ice now.
“Two years of maturing in general has been a lot of it,” Borchardt said. “With the pandemic, we’ve had, basically a year — not off — but just to reflect on where you’re at and where you want to be, and I think that helped us to be who we are now. I know for me, it’s just a little bit of a break and a reset, and I’m just trying to have a lot more fun with it.”
While fun is always the driving force behind any great team, the two leading scorers on the team understood what it meant to make the jump to Division I this season. Working even harder to match up with their new opponents and lead an incredibly young roster to the success they’ve seen this year has been no easy feat, but with a strong team to back them up, it’s certainly not impossible.
“DII and DIII is treated like club hockey, but in DI, the Aquinas, Calvin, Davenport teams, they all treat it as varsity and they’re all fully funded,” Haggerty said. “So, people go there to play hockey. That’s been the biggest adjustment, is that you have schools who are fully funded and take it a lot more serious, which I think was kind of a surprise to some of the new guys.”
With these adjustments for both the team captains, coaches and the rest of the team, they’ve started to come together as a competitive team willing to take on the challenges of DI club hockey.
“Everyone now is on board with, ‘we’re playing hockey,’ and fun is more of a byproduct than the goal of it,” Borchardt said. “I think there’s just a lot more eyes that see it and a lot more attention than there would be otherwise, for the better and the worse, so there’s a lot more opportunity to leave a bigger impact.”
As far as their individual success has gone this season, they humbly dedicated a great deal of it to the younger players on the team who’ve stepped up and made their jobs that much easier.
“Zack Kippe and Nick Sommerfield have been really coming along, and I don’t think they get enough credit,” Haggerty said. “They’re on my line and I think I get too much of the credit when it’s really, I just give it to them and they go and score, because all my points are assists.”
Similarly, on Borchardt’s line, a lot of the heavy lifting is done as a unit rather than as just one person.
“Playing with Josh Suzio and Sam Lechel, they make it so easy for me to score that it’s not really fair for me to get attention, or for everyone look at me and think, ‘that’s the leading goal scorer on the team,’” Borchardt said. “They’re just easy placement shots resulting from plays that they made. Even on the powerplay too, Shane passes it to me sometimes and I don’t even know how it gets on my stick, and then it’s just finishing it with a shot. I get the fun part for sure.”
With both captains having three years of eligibility left due to the five-year eligibility in a normal year and then the complications of COVID-19, the two plan to continue next season on the team and possibly for their fifth years as well.
While Borchardt plans on grad school after his senior year at GVSU, hockey will always be in his future, though his competitive playing days may be winding down by then. For Haggerty, he wants to become an athletic director so he can always be surrounded by the environment he’s grown so close to over the years.
As for the rest of the team that they’ll leave behind when they graduate, the younger players will have some big skates to fill.
“In terms of (goals for the team’s future), having a good identity and good character overall,” Borchardt said. “Because I know when we got here, there really wasn’t much set up like that and everyone was kind of just figuring out what we wanted to do and what we wanted to be like. So, I think at least getting started on a good, sound idea of what we want Grand Valley hockey to be like every year is a good start.”
Now that the roster is full of experienced players who are dedicated to GVSU hockey’s legacy, there’s no telling what the team could accomplish, even before Borchardt and Haggerty say their goodbyes. Through all of the late-night practices, the win and the loses and the friendships that they’ll be able to keep forever, their legacy in the program has only just begun.
(Originally published at https://lanthorn.com/88199/sports/team-captains-celebrate-milestones-building-the-future-of-gv-di-hockey/)