For the men’s hockey team, it all starts tomorrow night. The Red will take the ice for the first time against unfriendly opposition this season when it faces York at 7 p.m tomorrow.
The game will be the Red’s first and only game of its preseason, and head coach Mike Schafer ’86 sees it as an opportunity to develop more than just proper physical skills, team chemistry and strategies.
[img_assist|nid=19081|title=Sticky mess|desc=Senior forward Matt Hedge (23) notched one assist during the men’s hockey team’s Red/White scrimmage a week ago in Lynah Rink. (Ryan Dunn / Sun Stafff)|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=78]
“It’s not different than any other game. There’s a lot of things we want to develop. One — right off the bat — is we want to learn how to win and learn how to win as a team,” Schafer said. “I think we’ll use a lot of different players in the game to give a lot of guys opportunities to do things they really haven’t done in previous years. So, it’s [an] evaluation, but at the same time, you always want to develop habits of winning.”
In its first week of practice, the Red has been focusing on getting better team chemistry and getting players to understand the team’s system of play.
“It’s been a good week of practice of kind of starting to set the foundation of where we want to go to,” Schafer said. “All we want to accomplish is to set the stage for guys to work real hard, work together, be disciplined — you know, some of the things you need to do to start to win.”
“It’s always going great when the coaches get out on the ice, and it gets a lot more structure, and we’re not fooling around as much,” said junior captain Topher Scott. “So we’re working hard, and we’re really getting excited to get after it this weekend.”
Still, it is the team’s first game and even the captains expect there to be some mistakes.
“I think this weekend the coaches just want us to keep it simple,” Scott said. “We’re obviously going to make a lot of mistakes being our first team game and everything, but if we keep it simple and work hard in all three zones on the ice, that’s what they expect of us.”
With a roster that includes nine sophomores and eight freshman only a few days into structured practices, the Red will look to mix up the lines this weekend and to get all the players some ice time.
“Obviously, [Schafer] pinpoints our mistakes and stuff like that; but it’s been such a great time so far, learning a new system and getting ready for the game, so I’m really looking forward to this Saturday,” said rookie forward Colin Greening. “Obviously, as a freshman, I’m still learning … but that’s the good thing about coming in here. You know, after a while, you’re going to get it. And I’m really looking forward to finally getting it down.”
As of Thursday, York is 1-1-1, having most recently defeated Ryerson, 3-1, at home. The Lions have been playing exhibition games since the beginning of September, having started the season off with three-straight exhibition games against various NHL rookie squads. Although York never scored more than a goal in any of the contests, and the closest score in any of the games was 6-1 — with the worst being a 15-1 blowout by the Montreal Canadiens rookies — the Lions boast valuable ice time and experience this season that the Red is lacking.
“I really don’t know much about them,” Schafer said. “They’ll be older and strong; they’re always more mature as far as their age is concerned. I’m sure they’re a good hockey team. They’ve already played games, so it’s up to us to get up to speed real quick.”
The lack of information isn’t as important to the team as getting ice time, team chemistry and getting to game speed, though.
“The coaches are always really prepared about who we’re playing, so we’ll find a lot of good stuff about them [today and tomorrow],” Scott said.