Written by Rachel Krome
Recently, one can barely carry on a conversation with anyone at Concordia University Wisconsin without being asked if they have been to a men's hockey game yet. The excitement on campus is contagious.
With a new coach, an unseasoned team and seemingly altered attitude of the players, why this sudden excitement?
What is it about this "brand new" hockey team that has the students of CUW so animated?
This year's class of incoming freshmen on the men's hockey team was astounding, but not as overwhelming as one might think. With a new coach, there is an entirely new outlook. Head coach Jasen Wise, hired in March, indicates that each player is starting with a clean slate; no one on this team has ever played for him before.
With this unique view on the hockey program, Wise says that there is not any stigma of 'being a freshman' because to him everyone is new.
"...freshmen don't really matter here...these guys are 20-21 year old freshmen. Good communication with defense is important. They still have to work together. They do a good job putting aside what year they are and working hard as a unit with good communication and taking responsibility when something goes wrong, all of them, not just pointing a finger at one player."
This means that letting the new players adjust to college hockey during the first half of the semester is not an option. It also warrants a shift in leadership. As a new team, with so many different personalities, it is interesting to note freshmen captain, Buster Hebda (Firestone, Colo.), believes that coming into this year any number of his teammates could have been the captain because of the amount of exemplary leadership that each player displays on the ice.
The team's first three games were losses to St. Norbert College and MSOE, both of whom are ranked in the top 15 of the nation. Wise says that as a newer team, they know what standards they now have to reach for.
Leading scorer, Devin Stuermer (Milwaukee, Wis.), feels that after putting several games under their belts, as a team, communication has gotten better and the team is more comfortable with each other.
"It's an adjustment," Stuermer said. "Everybody has a role and it's just putting the pieces of the puzzle together."
Going into this year, he was not sure what to expect, but now the team is going to try to win as many games as possible.
In the season's first seven games alone, the team has given up 20 fewer goals than last year's team, which is almost three goals a game less. The games against Lawrence University and Lake Forest College are proof that hard work is paying off, and the team is gaining confidence and starting to find their pace as a unit.
Wise says that at the beginning of the season he had the good-will and excitement from everyone for the new season, but the support was quiet. Now after four-consecutive wins, the crowd can't be stilled or silenced. "It's good having that 'extra body' on the ice," he said.
He's not the only one who appreciates the clamorous crowd. Freshman goalie Jake Hebda (Firestone, Colo.) acknowledges that the student section helps.
"During warm-ups it looks like a bleacher night, but halfway through the first, everybody is out," he said. "It's awesome".
His brother on the team, Buster, said that it's great to have a chance to perform and see that people are enjoying themselves, especially with the chance to play with his brother.
This team's performance only proves the importance of banding together for a common cause. Here can be seen the importance of communication, hard work, and coming together as a team. The Falcons hold high hopes for this season, and look forward to having great turnouts at the rest of their games.