New-look Lakers skate into 2014-15 campaign

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Bobby Penrod

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Bobby Penrod

Nick DeMaagd

As the winds of change signal a new season, the men’s D2 club hockey team at Grand Valley State University has undergone some changes of its own. Many familiar names comprise the roster, but there are a slew of new faces ready to leave their mark on the ice this season.

Expectations have been high for the Lakers in the past few years after the team made three consecutive national championship appearances from 2011-2013. Now, the team looks to recapture that success after its postseason run came up short in March.

For sixth-year head coach Mike Forbes, it all starts on defense.

“We’ll prepare like we always do, starting with coverage in front of the net and working our way forward,” Forbes said.

Senior leader Nick Heinrich is one of the key defenseman coming back this season. Heinrich said the team has added some talented young players who should help bolster the defensive unit.

“I believe the additions to our defense make our blue line the key to success this year,” he said.

The blue line isn’t the only place sporting some new faces.

After graduating last year, goalie Scott Teifenthal left some big skates to fill. Sophomores Ryan Morey and Doc Hoekzema will be the ones competing for a chance to try them on.

“Teif was amazing last year and everyone trusted him,” said senior forward Matt Smartt. “It’ll be between them to decide who’s going to step up. They both have great potential.”

Offensively, Smartt and a host of talented returners figure to bring plenty of production all season long. Forwards Brad Wilhelm, Nick Schultz, Jake Endicott, Tyler Stoller and JD Duckworth are some names to keep an eye on.

A new season brings a new team dynamic and, for the veteran players, team chemistry has become a point of emphasis.

“It’s really important that we stay together as a team,” Smartt said. “Keeping the goal in mind that everything you do is for that one goal, and that you need to play for the guy next to you.”

In the short term the team is trying to keep it simple and play as one unit, learning from one another as the season progresses.

“Many of the older guys have taken the younger kids under their wings,” Heinrich said.

The Lakers went 19-7-1 in regular season games last year, but duplicating such success won’t be easy this time around because GVSU has a tough schedule ahead.

To prepare for some of the more physical teams, Forbes said he plans to utilize his team’s size to bolster the offense and build a strong defensive core.

The Lakers will make their season debut on Friday at Rochester College.