With 12 new faces added to the roster, Lawrence’s men’s hockey team will be a mix of old and new as they take the ice this season. Head coach Mike Szkodzinski comes into his second season with a host of new talent.The Vikings will look to improve on the most successful season in team history, in which the Vikes went 13-14-2.
Szkodzinski brought in a host of new players to fill in the gaps left after the Vikes lost a strong senior class. The ice won’t be the same without the size and shot of Kalle Larsson, work ethic and grit of David Olynyk or the solid play of Evan Thornton.
The loss of Joe Searl, who tied the single season goal record last year, and Andrew Isaac, three time all-conference goaltender, will also hit the team hard; but this is the nature of college sports, with the loss of seniors comes in the excitement of new recruits.
This season, the team welcomes 11 freshmen and a junior transfer. Among the recruits are three new goaltenders vying for the number one spot. Jimmy Ryan, Evan Johnson and Riley Stank will be in between the pipes.
Ryan, a junior transfer from New England College, posted a 2-0 record his freshman campaign with the Pilgrims. Johnson came to the Vikings from the New England Huskies of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
Stank, a Wausau, Wis. native, arrived at Lawrence after playing for the Green Bay Gamblers Midget AAA team last season. His style has been compared to that of the great Denis Lemieux.
The Vikings look to incorporate freshmen Pat Brenner and Corey Garrett into a solid defensive core. Anchored by the veteran leadership of senior captain Josh Peterson, a three-time all-conference player, the solid play of Adam Brand and last year’s midseason acquisition, Mike Ackley, the Vikes will look to shut down opposing teams’ offense.
The Vikings round off their defensive unit with the size and strength of senior Pat Tuohy and the transfer of Aaron Lafave from the offensive side of the puck back to defense.
Anytime a team loses a veteran goal scorer like Joe Searl, it leaves a hole; but with the addition of seven freshmen forwards and a strong group of vets, the Vikes hope to quickly fill it.
Nick Jennette and Marc Howe, who were the Vikings’ second and third leading scorers, will look to add to their totals from last season. The hardnosed play of Billy Siers and Austin Montgomery along with the skill of Masa Takahashi and Jesse Jacobs will help the Vikes bring an even attack to their offense.
The strong defensive play and penalty killing abilities of Neil Wallace and Jon Sacks will be imperative when the Vikes go down a man. The freshman recruits’ overall speed and skill will make the games fast-paced and enjoyable to watch.
Brian Kennihan, a senior, will start the season on the sidelines with a chronic leg injury, but could be an asset to the team later on in the season.
The Vikes take the ice this Wednesday at 7 p.m., in an exhibition against the Soo Thunderbirds. The first six games for the Vikings will be a real test. On October 30 the Vikings will face off against perennial powerhouse St. Norbert’s.
Up next, the Vikes have a home game against the MSOE Raiders, MCHA regular season conference champs last year, November 2 and 3. Lawrence will then take on Adrian at Adrian on November 9 and 10. Adrian is a new addition to the MCHA, with one of the best recruiting classes in Division III hockey. Pulling the six game stretch to a close, the Vikes will play Lake Forest on November 24. The Vikes beat Lake Forest last year five to four in an overtime thriller at Lake Forest, creating some bad blood and fueling a new rivalry. The Vikings will round out the first half with a road trip to Crookston, Minn. on December 1 and 2, and a home stand against the Northland College Lumberjacks on December 7 and 8.
The Vikes face off this Wednesday at 7 p.m., taking on the Soo Thunderbirds at the Appleton Family Ice Center.