Laker women’s hockey looks to straighten out up-and-down season

Courtesy Photo / GVSU Womens Hockey
Junior Lindsay Coursen controls the puck during a game

Courtesy Photo / GVSU Women’s Hockey Junior Lindsay Coursen controls the puck during a game

Greg Monahan

In a season that has seen a number of highs paired with its share of lows, the Grand Valley State University women’s hockey team will look to settle down in the second half and make a run at the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s National Championship.

Playing a gauntlet of the nation’s toughest ACHA Division I teams in the early stages of the season, the GVSU women started out 8-0-1 but hit a six-game winless streak in late October and early November.

Ranked No. 6 in the country, GVSU has already played each of the top four ranked teams in the nation. The team has struggled mightily at times, but it has also proven itself against top talent with ties against the first- and second-ranked teams in the nation – Lindenwood University and Michigan State University.

“With the busy schedule at the beginning of the season, we started off strong and had a couple big wins against great teams,” said junior goalie Michelle Wyniemko. “Then we had a couple mental breakdowns and mistakes during some games later on, but we played them tough, so we’re not going to dwell on those.”

Since the six-game winless streak when GVSU went 0-4-2, the team has turned back around and won four of its last six games.

“Consistency is the key,” said GVSU head coach Cory Whitaker. “We brought in some freshmen who had a major role in what we were doing, and I think they struggled with some of our systems at times and the responsibilities they had. Now that we are past that, I think that it’s going to be exciting for sure because they’ve found their way in and know our system.”

The Lakers are an underclassman-laden team — eight of the 21 skaters are freshman, and the team has been through the typical growing pains associated with a young club.

“We did have a lot of new girls come in and we clicked right away,” said senior captain Ashley Rumsey, who leads the team with 24 goals in just 20 games. “But then I think we got a little overconfident of ourselves and hit a little dip. We were ranked higher than we had ever been at third in the nation, which we couldn’t believe. So I think that got to us a little bit, and we let off the gas, but we’re picking it back up now.”

After more than a month off, the Lakers will jump to action this weekend with three games in three days, including two on the road.

At No. 6 in the nation, the Lakers have to stay in the top 10 to make their third straight National Championship tournament.

Whitaker said his young team’s growth as the season has progressed will help them get to the tournament with the help of the upperclassmen.

“One of the biggest rewards as a coach is when you have a group of players come in and the players who have been in the system for the past few years are beginning to pass that knowledge and experience to the younger players,” Whitaker said. “It’s been really nice for me to take a step back and watch them develop. It’s definitely exciting, and that’s what you hope for in a program, and we want to carry that to the end of the year.”

The puck will drop on the latter half of the Lakers’ season at 8 p.m. on Friday at Walker Ice and Fitness Center. The team then travels on Saturday and Sunday to Ann Arbor to take on the University of Michigan.

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