Youth movement: GVSU hockey starts 7-1-1
Katie Danto brings the puck down the wing during a previous matchup at Georgetown Ice Arena.
Amidst a sea of freshmen players, the Grand Valley State women’s hockey club has sailed to an impressive record, showing serious signs that the Lakers are a team to be reckoned with.
Their talent on the ice, combined with leadership from the upperclassmen, has helped the Lakers form bonds that have strengthened the team’s core.
Senior captain Alexa Tenwalde said the ladies have been developing well as a group, and that they are ready and eager to continue their winning ways into the second half of the season.
“On the ice, we’re really clicking,” Tenwalde said. “We’re running our systems really well, better than I’ve seen in previous years. It’s just been a really special year so far.”
Head coach Sean McKernan, now in his sixth season at the helm, said he is satisfied with the team’s success thus far, but knows the girls have a long way to go if they want the coveted invitation to nationals.
“We’re winning those close games, where in years past, we’ve struggled to win those,” McKernan said. “This year, we’re really working hard, and the proof is on our record, that what the girls are doing is working.”
By demonstrating leadership on and off the ice, the upperclassmen have been a huge influence on the club’s freshman. The older girls teach the freshmen how to work in practice, which supports their personal relationships and fuels their chemistry on the lines.
The flexibility of the players is also a key factor in the team’s early success. The depth of talent allows the coaching staff to roll out different lines, providing seamless play on the ice and making matchups difficult for opposing teams.
The trick is to find the right combination for optimal success.
“We’ve had to change it up a few times just to really get that good niche in there, but I think we really got it now,” Tenwalde said. “There are so many different combinations that could work, so it’s hard to set the lines.”
Team points leader and forward Frankie Wojtylo, said that the team “has a lot of great players and a lot of options.” Wojtylo, a freshman on the GVSU team, has quickly established a reputation with her work ethic and wicked good hands on the ice.
The Lakers have big games against solid talent coming up in the season’s second half, but a successful season is in sight if they're able to carry on the momentum they've created.
McKernan said the Lakers will need to put forth full 60-minute efforts if they want to achieve their goals of taking the league and going to nationals.
“We’re getting close to that,” he said. “If we can get over that little hump, it will suit us well going into second semester.”
The club hits the ice next for a two-game weekend series against Liberty University (12-3-1) from Jan. 9-10.