You can look at the first half of the Lawrence University hockey season and think of it as a glass half-full or a glass half-empty scenario.
Lawrence coach Mike Szkodzinski is taking the optimistic route.
A 4-7 record is not the kind of start Lawrence had hoped for but factor in that five of those seven setbacks were by one goal, and the Vikings have reason for optimism.
“At this level, details matter and our league has become so competitive that one mistake can, and has been, the difference on many nights this year,” Lawrence coach Mike Szkodzinski said. “Losing these one-goal games is the sign of a very young team. However, we are halfway through the season now so being young is no excuse. We need our players to take the lessons learned in the first half and use that experience in the second half.”
Lawrence also has done something uncharacteristic this season and that is lose a third-period lead. Entering this season, Lawrence was 55-3-5 under Szkodzinski when leading after two periods. Lawrence has lost three games this season after taking a lead into the final period.
“This team has been resilient,” Szkodzinski said. “They have continued to battle for each other after some heartbreaking losses. It would be very easy to question each other, the coaches, or even themselves as individuals. We have not seen that, which is a great sign. We believe we have great character people and being close can challenge one’s character. So far, these young men are staying the course, and we are very proud of that fact.”
The Vikings have a few weeks off before coming back after Christmas to play in the Pathfinder Bank Classic at the State University of New York-Oswego on Dec. 30-31. Lawrence faces Castleton State College on Dec. 30 and then faces either No. 2-ranked Oswego or Plymouth State University on Dec. 31.
“We are simply focused on the next game and that is Castleton,” Szkodzinski said. “With young players, we need to make sure we are keeping everything in perspective and not looking too far ahead. We need to think about the next shift, the next period, and keep things simple.”
Several of the Vikings’ first-year players have had a big impact, and with seven seniors lost to graduation from last year’s team, Lawrence needed an influx of new talent.
“As a group, our freshmen have been excellent,” Szkodzinski said. “Logan Lemirande, Rudi Pino, Renato Engler, Matt Moore and Ryan Rumble have all made significant contributions up front. Brandon Boelter has stepped up on and off the ice while Steve Hughes has been one of the most competitive guys for us night in and night out.”
Lawrence has three of the top four freshman scorers in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association. Lemirande is second at 1.60 points per game, Pino is third at 1.18 and Boelter is fourth at 1.09.
Lemirande leads the league at 1.30 assists per game, ranks second at 1.60 points per game and is fifth at 0.60 power-play points per game. Boelter is the top scoring defenseman in the league at 1.09 points per game and he ranks first in the conference at 0.64 power-play points per game.
“It will be interesting to see how they take the experience they have gained over the first 11 games into the last 14,” Szkodzinski said.
While the record hasn’t been ideal, it’s the least of Szkodzinski’s worries.
“Our record is not our focus, it never has been,” Szkodzinski said. “Our focus is getting better every time we step on the ice. Our goals haven’t changed. We have gone through some tough lessons during this stretch. If we can stick to the plan and get better every single day then we will be in the hunt come late February.”
The Lawrence men’s basketball team (4-3, 3-2 MWC) faces a big early test when St. Norbert College comes to Alexander Gymnasium on Saturday. The Green Knights have won two of the last three Midwest Conference championships. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.
After posting four double-doubles in her first two seasons, junior guard Alex Deshler has four double-doubles already this season. Deshler is averaging 14.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. She ranks fifth in the conference in scoring and seventh in rebounding.