By Chris Moore
After an inconsistent and disappointing season last year, the Grand Valley State University men’s hockey team decided some changes were needed to turn the direction of the team around. The Lakers return to the ice this year with a new look and a new attitude.
Coaching is the first change you’d notice, as the Lakers have replaced former coach Jason Zimmerman with former NHL draftee, IHL star, and junior coach Denny McLean. He brings his excitement for the team and wealth of knowledge to the ice.
"I believe there are a lot of pieces already in place to have a very successful season and in meeting with the players I've found their goals to be very lofty,” McLean stated. “My agenda now is pointing them in the direction of a national championship this year and to solidify the stature of Laker hockey for years to come."
On the ice, the Lakers look strong this year, returning every key piece of the 2004-2005 team, and adding some extra firepower in the process. Captain Mike Kadzban returns with two new linemates in Tim Hillebrand and David Wilmert. Hillebrand comes to the team after being named a Michigan Division I First Team All-Star, while Wilmert is a hardworking playing coming from the Buffalo State NCAA D-III team. He played his junior hockey with the Youngstown Phantoms Jr. A team in the CEHL and NAHL.
A late addition last year, Jeff Tejchma lines up with former Little Caesars star Mike Johnson and Nate Morang. Morang and Tejchma combined at the end of last year to be a powerful force on the ice. Last year's leader goal scorer and former All-State player, Phil Murray, lines up with the speedy Nate Beverwyk and last year's leader in points, Jeff Stempin to make another strong line. The Lakers have also added Nick Smith, a former Compuware Jr. A player, along with Metro Jets CSHL star Robb Higgins to make the lineup as strong as ever.
The defense returns all its key players last year and adds a few as well. Greg Kehr and Joe Bozek will continue to lead the team defensively, while NAHL star Adam Zobl and Mike Marquardt will be relied on to put up points on the blueline. The Lakers have also added talented Florida product Nick Boyle and will continue to rely on the big Aaron Bernstein as important d-men.
In goal, GVSU should continue to be solid, as the Lakers bring back goaltenders Chris Moore and former junior goaltender Troy VanderWeyden, while adding Michigan All-State goaltender Kevin Chapman. It is Moore’s fourth year on the team and VanderWeyden’s third. VanderWeyden turned down offers to play professionally in Europe to continue playing for GVSU. The two should combine to make a strong one-two punch in goal.
The GVSU Lakers begin their season this year with a road trip to Northern Michigan this upcoming weekend. The two teams met once last year, which came out with as a 4-4 tie. Northern's goaltending was spectacular in the game as GVSU outshot NMU by a total of 63-21, but still needed a last minute goal to secure the tie.
The Lakers hope to have a strong start to the season, but will have to work hard, as four of the first five weekends are on the road.