Inside LU Athletics: Vikings embark on new era in revamped NCHA

Posted on: October 23rd, 2013 by Joseph Vanden Acker

This season will be like starting over for the Lawrence University hockey team, and that exactly what the Vikings needed.

Lawrence is now in the new-look Northern Collegiate Hockey Association and is attempting to rebound from a difficult 2012-13 campaign that saw the Vikings lose nine one-goal games.

“This group has a lot to prove,” said Lawrence coach Mike Szkdozinski, who enters his eighth season with the Vikings. “We simply let too many opportunities slip away last season. We need to take those experiences and learn from them. We return a lot of bodies, but that only matters if we apply the lessons we learned last year.”

The Vikings do return an impressive list of players, including seven of their top-10 scorers from a season ago and all six of the regular defensemen. While Lawrence was incredibly young last season, the Vikings are still young but vastly more experienced.

The offense lost all-conference forward Brad Scurfield to graduation, but the Vikings return leading scorer Logan Lemirande, who was named to the all-freshmen team last season. Lemriande had 27 points last season and is joined up front by sophomore forward Rudi Pino, who had 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points as a rookie.

“Logan Lemirande and Rudi Pino have a chance to be very, very good players at this level,” Szkodzinski said. “They both skate well and have good instincts. They will need to execute more consistently to reach their potential. As a whole, we feel we are as deep as we have been in our forward lines if everyone stays healthy.”

Throw in sophomores Renato Engler and Matt Moore to go with seniors like Paul Zuke and Huck Saunders and the Vikings have quality scorers on every line.

Sophomore Brandon Boelter, who was named captain this season, leads a talented group of defenseman. Boelter was named to both the all-conference and all-freshmen teams last season after scoring six goals and handing out 15 assists for 21 points. The Vikings also have former all-conference pick William Thoren back for his senior season and talented juniors Kevin Killian and Erik Soderlund.

“We didn’t lose anyone on the back end to graduation. That should help us,” Szkodzinski said. “William Thoren has something to prove after a below-average season last year. Brandon Boelter and Kevin Killian should be strong and physical. Again, if we can stay healthy, we like our group of 6 on the blue line.”

The big question mark comes in goal for the Vikings. Lawrence returns former starter Peter Emery, who had a spectacular rookie season in 2011-12, and fellow junior Anton Olsson. Szkodzinski said the competition for goaltending job is wide open.

“For the first time in several years, we have no idea who will be in the net on opening night,” Szkodzinski said. “That’s not a bad thing. It is a challenge for both Peter and Anton. We definitely need someone to step up and take control. To this point, the two are neck-and-neck. We need some one to prove that they want to be the guy. That is crucial to our success this year.”

The Vikings will need to step up their game if they want to have more success in the new NCHA, a product of the abandonment of the old league by the five Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools. With the addition of national powerhouse St. Norbert College and perennial top-15 team St. Scholastica, the league is now arguably the best in all of Division III.

“Adding St. Scholastica and St. Norbert is tremendous for our conference,” Szkodzinski said. “It will raise the level of play just like Adrian did when they joined our conference. Our conference will feature great teams and each night will be a true battle. There will be zero gimmies in the NCHA.”

To have a successful season, Szkodzinski said his team will have to take care of the small things to create the bigger picture.

“We need to focus on details,” Szkodzinski said. “We need to finish every play. We need to be committed to doing things the right way on every single shift. We need to take the lessons learned and use them. We need to stop talking and prove that we are capable of finishing games this year.”

Brisbois honored

Cross country standout Jamie Brisbois has been named the Midwest Conference Performer of the Week.

Brisbois took the honor after a stellar performance at the UW-Oshkosh Brooks Invitational this past Saturday. Brisbois covered the 8,000-meter course at Lake Breeze Golf Club in 26:22.25, which was a personal record for the senior. Brisbois placed 102nd in a field of 566 runners and now owns the sixth-fastest time in the league this season.

Passing two grand

Libero Kathleen Rowland, already Lawrence’s career digs leader, recently passed 2,000 digs. Rowland, a senior from Champaign, Ill., now has 2,084 digs for her career. Rowland just moved ahead of former Lake Forest College standout Meghan Miller (2,083) for ninth place on the Midwest Conference’s career list.

Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.

 

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