Tough opening series for hockey team

The start of the season introduced a new era for the Lawrence University hockey program in the completely revamped Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA). The major change in the NCHA is the inclusion of a multitude of teams not previously in the Association.

Despite the Conference changes, the team was able to retain seven of the top ten scorers and all six regular defenders from last year. With all of these factors at play, the Vikings headed into the 2013 season with high expectations. Unfortunately, the Vikings did not get the fresh start they had hoped for and lost both of the weekend’s matches against NCHA rival Concordia University. The Vikings dropped their first game at the Appleton Family Ice Center on Friday, Nov. 1 by a score of 6 – 2, while the second loss came the following night at Concordia (3-2 in OT).

The biggest concern heading into the season was the lack of certainty at the goalie position. According to head coach Mike Szkdozinski, that remained a question mark heading into the series against the Falcons. “It’s a challenge for both Peter [Emery] and Anton [Olsson],” said Szkdozinski. “To this point, the two are neck-and-neck. We need someone to prove that they want to be the guy.”

For the first game, junior Peter Emery was placed in the net. The promotion came after a year-long hiatus from being the consistent starter. Emery, who had a terrific rookie campaign throughout the 2011-12 season, played very well throughout the first two periods and finished the game with 25 saves. Besides Emery, one Viking whose individual performance stood out was senior forward Huck Saunders, who scored two back-to-back goals at the end of the second period.

Ultimately, the Vikings’ defense was unable to slow down the Falcons in the third period. 11:13 into the third period, Concordia freshman Brett Penner scored on a power play. That score was followed by two more Falcon goals within the last five minutes of play.

The following night, Nov. 2, the team traveled to Mequon to play Concordia at the Ozaukee Ice Center, and junior Anton Olsson started in-goal. Despite being down for most of the game, Lawrence junior Patrick Coyne scored midway through the third period to even the score at 2-2. The goal ended up sending the game into overtime. But only 33 seconds into overtime, Concordia forward Dylan Hutton scored off of an assist from Buster Hebda and the Falcons came away with another win.

Two weeks prior to the series, Lawrence was projected as the seventh best team in the Conference, one spot above the Concordia Falcons. Following the losses, LU is now tied for last place in the NCHA. This weekend, Nov. 8 and 9, the Vikings will face Marian University in another NCHA series.