Men’s hockey opens season

GVL Archive
Past Hockey game

GVL Archive Past Hockey game

Greg Monahan

With expectations through the roof and a dynamite lineup to back them up, the Grand Valley State University men’s hockey team prepares to drop the puck on another season while seeking the best finish in school history.

The team hopes to improve upon a top-10 finish in each of the past three years, including a third-overall final ranking in 2008. The Lakers return all of their top eight scorers from the past year along with both of their goaltenders.

In addition to the returning starters, GVSU adds several transfers, including NCAA Division III athlete Matt Wilhelm and Davenport University transfer C.J. Pobur. The new players will take on positions last year’s graduates vacated, including former captain and defenseman Jason Brown.

Despite the subtraction of graduated seniors and the addition of new faces on the roster, senior Kyle Gorka said the team hasn’t lost a step.

“So far (the new skaters) are fitting in really well,” he said. “I think we’ve patched up some big gaps that we had from people leaving, and we picked up some good role players to fill those spots. We have a solid group from what we lost from last season.”

The addition of Wilhelm, who formerly played for Plymouth State University, has excited GVSU head coach Mike Forbes as well as the team.

“(Wilhelm) is a very, very skilled player and we’re happy to have him on our team,” Forbes said. “I think he’s really going to be an impact player for us. He’s a tremendous, fluid skater, he sees guys really well, controls the puck extremely well and releases the puck as good as I’ve seen anyone at this level. He’s the kind of player who could put up 30-35 goals for us, easy.”

That is especially high praise coming from the coach of a team whose leading scorer, Brad Keough, notched 17 goals last season – hardly a low total, but nowhere near 30 goals.

If there is a question mark on the GVSU roster, it comes on defense, where the team lost Brown, powerplay specialist Andy Dykstra and Kevin Thomas. Forbes said he will lean on transfer Shane McCusker, 6-foot-4-inch freshman Bobby Penrod and GVSU Division III call-up Doug Smotel to fill the void.

“Our defense is a little up in the air right now because we have so many young kids,” Forbes said. “But I think within the structure of our system they’ll be just fine. We’re really happy with the freshman class we have. We have some size, we have mobility and we have very good puck movement all around.”

As the team prepares for its season-opening weekend against hard-hitting Adrian College, not lost is the memory of the match-ups from last year where the Lakers went 1-1 in two games but lost several players to injury, including one skater for the remainder of the year.

Senior Derek “Waterbug” Williams said the team will be well-off facing such a tough team in its season opener.

“It’ll be good for the new guys to get in there against a tough team right away,” he said. “I know I always enjoy playing them. They have a big team and it’s always fun to go against guys like that. But we’re going to be sore on Saturday night, that’s for sure.”

The home-and-home series begins at Georgetown Ice Arena for the Lakers’ opener at 8 p.m. Friday before GVSU travels to Adrian for a 3 p.m. game the following afternoon.

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