It is customary for coaches and players of any certain team to go into a season with a large dose of optimism, regardless of their actual potential. A stronger sentiment has taken hold with this year’s hockey team, an attitude that transcends blind optimism. “This is the best hockey team that I have played with at Lawrence,” says senior co-captain Pete Mossberg. Such a statement is notably profound coming from a player who has been around for the team’s best seasons in history. This year’s freshman class is highly acclaimed. Ten players hailing from locations ranging from California to Ontario have converged to form most promising influx of new talent in years – possibly ever. Furthermore, Coach Dave Ruhly asserts that this year’s freshmen “already have solid camaraderie with the rest of the team and will be able to make an impact right away.” The expectations of this year’s newcomers may seem bold considering the top two points leaders in Lawrence history graduated last year. Regardless, sophomore Austin Montgomery claims that “if we don’t win conference this year, we’ve done something wrong.” The team has yet to make it to a Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association championship game in the six-year history of the conference. In addition to the recent flood of talent, Ruhly praises the team’s preseason diligence and leadership. “[The experienced players] have brought the group together and have fostered a common goal for the team,” exerts Ruhly. “In addition, we have lots of players who describe their best assets as work ethic.” This work ethic will be tested Friday at 7 p.m. with UW-Stout coming to the Appleton Family Ice Center. The Vikes tied Stout last year in Menominee and, while the game won’t be a comprehensive comparison to a year ago, it will provide some information about what needs to be done to ensure a conference championship.