Viking Hockey Preview

Ted Greeley

Lawrence University’s men’s hockey team enters the 2008-2009 season with a combination of old and new. The team returns 16 skaters to the ice to be joined by 11 freshmen and two sophomore transfers.
Coach Szkodzinski enters his third season as head coach of the hockey Vikings with a 23-28-5 record. Szkodzinski said about his team’s composition, “You cannot put a price on experience and we are on the short end of that aspect. We have just nine upper-classmen and 21 players who are only sophomores or freshmen. However, we feel that we have come together very well over the past couple of weeks. Time will tell just how fast our team can gel into one cohesive unit.”
The Vikings return six of their seven top scorers from last year. Captains Nick Jennette and Marc Howe return to the ice after stellar seasons. Howe led the team with 33 points. Jennette led the team with 18 goals, tying the single season record, and added 13 assists.
Jennette is not concerned about topping last season’s point total. “If I end up with points, that is great, but I want to do whatever I can to make my teammates better and make the team the best it can be.”
Josh DeSmit and Matt Jacobs return for their sophomore campaigns. DeSmit finished last season with 29 points, good for third on the team. Matt Jacobs finished the season with 22 points — fifth best on the team.
Defenseman Mike Ackley added 17 points to lead returning defensemen. Masa Takahashi finished the season with 12 points, rounding out the top seven point getters. Takahashi has dedicated the season to the late Reg Dunlop.
The team will rely on Corey Garrett, Pat Brenner and Mike Ackley to anchor a young defensive corps; the Vikings welcome seven new defensemen to their ranks.
Evan Johnson and Jim Ryan return between the pipes for the Vikings. Ryan ended the season with a 3.76 GAA and a .880 save percentage. Johnson finished up with a 3.80 GAA and a .877 save percentage. Sophomore transfer Brady Kain will compete with Johnson and Ryan for playing time.
Billy Siers will look to add to his sophomore point total, 11, and continue his strong physical play. The Vikings will look for senior leadership from Jesse Jacobs, a member of campus band Ridin’ Pine. The team will also rely on Aaron LaFave for his versatility in playing both offensive and defensive positions. Jon Sacks will be a strong asset on the penalty kill.
When asked about his freshman class, Coach Szkodzinski said, “We feel like we addressed some of our depth issues with this year’s incoming class. We also believe that our freshmen this season give us more speed up front and more size on the blue line. We will look to a number of these players to compete for quality minutes each and every night. It is exciting to see the competition on a daily basis during our practices.”
Chemistry was an early concern, but it is no longer. “So far the chemistry has been great. We thought it might be a challenge with such a large freshman class,” Jennette commented. “We were worried about cliques developing, but we have developed into a tight knit group. Everyone seems to be on the same page.”
Szkodzinski and the team have decided not to set specific goals for the season. As Szkodzinski put it, “We are focused on improving ourselves individually each and every day — whether it is on the ice or off. If we can do that, then we will be at our best during the final stretch run of the season. That should put us in the best position to compete for the Harris Cup championship in Adrian.”
The Vikings face off against the Soo Thunderbirds in an exhibition game Friday, Oct. 17. On October 28 at 7:00 p.m. the Vikings will go head-to-head with defending national champion, St. Norbert, at the Appleton Family Ice Center. Szkodzinski believes “We will need to be at our best in all facets and compete harder than ever before in order to beat St. Norbert. It will be a great challenge and an excellent opportunity.” Some good fan support might help as well, so go support your Vikes!