Tuesday, September 19, 2006
GVSU Sets Sights On Nationals
Fresh Faces Compliment Strong Veteran Core
When the Grand Valley State University Hockey team lines up this weekend for its opening two games of the season against Western Michigan, fans might be a bit surprised at the new look of the team. Not just will the team be sporting new home jerseys, but many of the teams familiar faces from the past few years will be nowhere to be found. In fact, this year's team has 13 new faces in the lineup. While the first reaction would be to think of this year as a rebuilding year for the Lakers, it is however, quite the contrary. GVSU's 2006 rookie class is the strongest in the team's history, and looks to help bring the team to a national championship this season.
Up front the Lakers see the departure of their three captains last year but return their top two leading goal scorers. Phil Murray (Portage), the teams leader in goals and points the last two years, and Nate Morang (Dearborn), second in goals in 05/06, look to continue to lead the team to victory this season. The Lakers also return speedy forwards Dean Watkins and Andrew Beller, both of whom can keep up with any player in the league and score as well. Adam Zobl and Nate Beverwyk will continue to add their physical presence and scoring touch on the ice to the the GVSU lineup. Leadership and experience will be brought by fifth year senior Erik Prins and Ben Kadzban to round out the returners.
Coach Mclean has brought in several newcomers to the Lakers offensive front. Coming in with NCAA experience is forward Nick Biondo (Port Huron) from Plattsburg State. He should be a contributor right away, along with linemates Jake Erway (Traverse City) and Tom Anderson (Brighton). Erway comes from the Traverse City Northstars Jr. A program, while Anderson is fresh out of Brighton HS, where he won the Division 1 State high school championship last season and was named All State. Another two All-State additions are forward AJ Kukawinski (Pontiac) from Notre Dame Prep in Pontiac and Ryan Altom (Portage) from Portage Northern. Chris Rader (Birmingham) comes to GVSU as a graduate student after leading former rival SVSU in points in their last season to help make GVSU as strong up front as ever.
The GVSU Defense is also very young, with four returners and four newcomers. Known for his hard hitting brand of hockey, Greg Kehr (Saginaw) has emerged as the leader on the blue line. Andrew Dykstra (Grandville) returns for his sophomore season and, along with Floridian Nick Boyle, will bring some scoring touch to the blue line. Mike Marqurdt (Northville) will continue to help play solid defense. Freshmen Kyle Gorka (Livonia), from the Ann Arbor Wolverines AAA program, and former All-State defensemen AJ Carriger (Waterford) will contribute their skills on the blue line.
In net, GVSU looks to be strong, as they return Senior Chris Moore (Marquette) and Sophomore Kevin Chapman (Cheboygan). Moore, who was named 2nd Team All-Region last season, returns for his fifth year, while Chapman looks to improve on a solid rookie season. Coming all the way from the Phoenix Firebirds AAA program is freshman Grant Lyon. Grant turned down offers to play Jr. A to come to GVSU. All three will battle for the starting job in the Laker net.
Even the coaching staff has grown stronger. GVSU has added former Junior player Steve Kuklewski to the bench, which will only help the team with his knowledge and experience of the game. GVSU looks forward to what looks like it will be a successful and entertaining season. The Lakers open the season with six straight games against D1 teams, beginning with their home opener against Western Michigan University this Friday at 8 PM.