MEQUON, Wis. - With the second half of the season just around the corner, both the Concordia University Wisconsin men's and women's hockey teams will be relying on the same freshman goaltenders that anchored them through the early stages of the year.
For the women (6-4-0, 4-3-0 NCHA), first-year netminders Andrea Mizanskey (Palos Heights, Ill.) and Kaitlyn Evans (Fairbanks, Alaska) have both had strong starts to the season, while splitting the majority of the playing time between the pipes.
At the season's midway point, the pair's statistics are nearly identical: Mizanskey is 3-2 as a starter, while posting a .924 save percentage and a 2.26 goals against average. Evans is also 3-2, and is just behind her freshman counterpart with a .904 save percentage, and a 2.92 GAA.
Head coach Jim Ingman says this year has been a learning experience for both himself and his young goaltenders.
"I've never had to bring in a goalie and play her right away, but Kaitlyn and Andrea have both done very well for themselves," Ingman said. "There has been a bit of a learning curve for them, but the best thing is that they're getting better every day that they're out there."
Mizanskey and Evans both had the benefit of playing top competition before they even arrived at CUW, which is something they attribute to the early success they've enjoyed in Falcon uniforms.
Evans is a product of the North American Hockey Association, where she played alongside future members of the U.S. National Team.
Mizanskey, on the other hand, competed against both boys and girls at the high school and junior levels, which has helped her to become a quicker goaltender with excellent reflexes.
"I feel pretty good about my progress," Mizanskey said. "Coming in as a freshman, I didn't think I'd get as much playing time as I have, but I'm thankful for the minutes I have gotten so far and I think both of us have played well."
Neither Mizanskey nor Evans knew any of their current teammates upon arriving at CUW, but nonetheless, they say that the transition has gone smoothly and the squad has already developed camaraderie.
"The upperclassmen have been really welcoming to us freshman, and I think we work well with each other," Evans said. "As the season goes on, we'll become a much better team."
On the men's side, the Falcons (1-10-2, 1-6-1 MCHA) have relied on freshman Josh Lehr, who has earned the top spot on the depth chart through strong performances against some of the nation's best teams.
Through 11 games, Lehr has faced 474 shots but still managed to post a .899 save percentage.
Head coach Tony Hrkac has liked what he's seen from Lehr thus far, and credits his young goalie with keeping the Falcons in position to get positive results.
"The goaltenders have to be our best players and Josh has really taken the reins and helped us out on the back end," Hrkac said. "He's kept us in games at times, and has grabbed that number one spot; he's played terrific."
For Lehr, the Appleton, Wis. native says that consistent play will be his main focus going into the season's second half stretch.
"A big thing I'm working on is my consistency," Lehr said. "I've definitely had my up's and down's in games, but I just need to work hard and continue to get better each day so my performance stays even throughout the season."
Lehr has also enjoyed the benefit of having previously known many of his current Falcon teammates, something that he says has been a huge help on and off the ice.
"I knew quite a few of the guys actually; I played with them or played against them growing up and through juniors," he said. "It's made the transition much easier, and knowing other guys on the team helps a lot because you kind of know what they've experienced if they've been here before you."
Both teams are currently practicing and getting set for the season's latter half.
Mizanskey, Evans, and the CUW women's team get back to action this Friday, when they host St. Catherine's University at 7 p.m. at the Ozaukee Ice Center.
Lehr and the men's team will have an extra week of practice before they get back to game action, as their second half opener is January 13 at home against Finlandia University.