GVSU roller hockey wraps up first semester

GVL/Courtesy Isaac Washburn

GVL/Courtesy Isaac Washburn

Josh Peick

The Grand Valley State roller hockey teams are hanging up their skates for the fall semester. Both teams, Divisions I and III, finished the first part of the season over the weekend. The Division I team finished with a 5-3 record while the Division III team finished 2-4.

It has been a learning process for both teams.

This year, the Division I team has seven new players, compared to last year’s team which only had three. The Division III team has had a more drastic change to the lineup, with only three returning players out of the 14 roster spots. Although it will take time for the teams to find the right chemistry, the new influx of players is a positive sign for the program.

This year, 40 students tried out for roller hockey — more players than the program has seen in the past few years. Students are already showing interest in trying out for next year’s team.

“It is a positive seeing more guys come out,” said head coach Isaac Washburn. “The last couple of years, we’ve struggled to get players that are going to stick around.”

Washburn isn’t necessarily looking for the most skilled players, but players who will contribute to the team as leaders.

“As my first year as head coach, my big thing was to make sure I was getting the right type of players that fit what we are trying to do culturally,” he said.

Finding chemistry hasn’t been the only struggle for some of the new players. Many of the roller hockey players are used to ice hockey, so the transition from the ice to the hard court has been difficult. The seniors on the team have taken it upon themselves to help the new players make that transition easier.

“We make sure that the young guys have a drive and buy into how we do things as a program,” said senior Alex Reaume of the Division I team. “We all came from ice, so we try to show them that anything can be done.”

And the learning process hasn’t been only for the new players to the team. Some of the returning players have needed to adjust to Washburn’s offensive and defensive systems. Washburn’s system is more complex than the previous one, but is based off of the same basic concepts with some minor changes.

“We have a lot more structure this year,” said Reaume. “The plays are more elaborate but are easier to understand with only a few minor tweaks for the returning players.”

Despite all of the transitions, both teams have played quality hockey for the first part of the season. Despite the Division I team’s 5-3 record, the team has not hit its peak yet.

“We’ve done well so far but we’re not necessarily where we want to be,” said Washburn. “I think that a lot of our guys think our record should be better than what it is.

“A couple of the games we didn’t necessarily get the results we deserved. That just shows that winning isn’t going to be easy in this league.”

The Division III team’s record of 2-4 is not indicative of how they have played this year. The team has played four Division II teams, winning two of the games. GVSU Division III has also had a number of close losses, including one against the third-ranked team in the nation for Division III.

“Everybody started to buy in towards the end of the semester,” said sophomore Justin Sims, “which will hopefully set us up for success in the second half.”

The only knock on the Division III team was the amount of penalties the team has compiled in the first half of the season.

“We are learning the importance of discipline,” said Washburn. “We have shot ourselves in the foot with penalties in the first half.”

Both teams will look to build more chemistry with all the changes that have occurred in the past year. The more time the teams log on the court together will only improve the quality of play. Both teams will resume tournament play in January at the beginning of the winter semester.