Losing two games by a combined fifteen points typically invokes a total dismantling of the losing team. However, in the view of the Case Western Reserve University Ice Hockey Club they represent nothing but improvement. The club dropped their first and second games of the season to Penn State Altoona by the seemingly hideous scores of 9-2 and 11-3. Third-year student Dan Hopkins, president and forward, and third-year student Patrick Balsam, goaltender, put this notion to rest.
Just last year, the Spartans lost to Altoona 15-4, and it was nothing to be proud of then. After the loss this year though Balsam and Hopkins both asserted the team came together well.
The team always had players with talent each year in the past but previously every team member tried to make a play on his own. The selfish play was not conducive to playing well, and the team struggled. Now, the focus is on the team as a whole, and the results show.
The rookies on the team are also picking up on this concept extremely quickly as they are making nice transitions onto the team. In particular, first-year student Jesse Hall and second-year student Brandon McMillan received great praise from Balsam. Both of them have scored in their two game tenures.
Balsam said it is good to see the youth playing well because it indicates a promising future. Hopkins added that it is important that they mold all the new players into leaders and serious contenders to ensure the continued success of the club.
Even though the team shows improvement, there are always other areas to improve and Balsam noted this. He would have liked to see more out of the team’s power play and penalty kill during the first game. Balsam said that it felt like the teams were at even strength even when CWRU was on the power play and had one more player on the ice. The team did get some results in the second game as they converted one opportunity, showing they can get better in weak areas.
Also on the positive side, this year is the first time in a couple of years that CWRU has been able to send out a full 18-man roster. Hopkins is particularly excited about the full squad because it allows for better practices, as well as more effective shifts during games. In the past, players have played upwards of 35 minutes on the ice in a game, which is absurd by hockey standards. Keeping shifts short is key for the team in terms of finding success, as players will be less tired and can recover quicker for their next game.
Looking forward, the hockey team holds a three game home stand against California University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and Saint Vincent College starting on Nov. 4. The games will be played on successive Saturdays and start after 8 p.m.
Balsam and Hopkins both feel bullish about these games as they have historically played well against the teams and the leaders have continually seen better play at each practice. They both also think the team can make a strong push into the playoffs later on during the season and a run at the championship. The team narrowly missed the playoffs just last year.
There will be ups and downs to the season and fighting through those times of difficulty will be key for this young team.
Balsam said, “We just try to keep our heads down and know that if we make mistakes we have to correct them. We just need to stay our course. This is hockey.”
He also went on to note that the team is much smaller physically than in previous seasons, which they have to get past. Hits are going to hurt but that cannot be an excuse to stop.
There is plenty to look forward to for the CWRU Ice Hockey Club. Although getting off to a rough start record wise, they will look to change that in the coming weeks. Balsam and Hopkins just hope more than anything that the team has a great time in the process.