The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point men’s hockey team begins its home slate at the K.B. Willett Ice Arena on Friday, Nov. 3, as this year’s team is hungry to improve on last season’s bitter end.
The five-time Division III National Champions ended last season with a 6-3 loss in the quarterfinals to Adrian College during the 2017 Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Championship Tournament.
“I know myself and other veterans are still a little upset about it, which is good because this year’s main goal is to win the national championship,” Point’s forward and team captain Willem Nong-Lambert said.
Stevens Point lost its top three scorers to graduation and players like Nong-Lambert are expected to step up and lead the team.
This year’s team is young, featuring only four seniors on the roster. Nong-Lambert pointed to his experience as an attribute than can help the team grow and win games.
“I think my biggest strength is seeing the ice and knowing where to be, knowing where the puck is going to be,” Nong-Lambert said.
Nong-Lambert hopes to improve team chemistry and sustain a winning atmosphere. He hopes to set the tone by having “accountability every game, being ready to go and leading by example throughout the entire season.”
The Pointer’s interim head coach, Tyler Krueger, commands a team that he helped guide to three consecutive national championship appearances between 2014 and 2016 as an associate head coach under former head coach Chris Brooks. Krueger believes that the offseason has prepared the team to compete at a high level.
“The guys had a good first six week of preseason,” Krueger said.
“I think we are a step ahead of where we’ve been in past years.”
Krueger acknowledged that a goal over the off-season was to acclimate the 10 new players to the roster.
“Bringing in 10 players, I think that it’s a positive. Guys worked hard, they got together right away and gelled as a team,” Krueger said.
Additionally, the interim head coach expects that the returning players step up to fill the shoes of the departed.
“Willem was a junior, more is going to be expected of Willem as a senior and as our captain,” Krueger said. “Same thing with the freshmen this past year, more is going to be expected of them as sophomores.”
Though the team has changed, the end goal remains the same, to win the national championship.
Co-captains Tanner Karty, a forward, goaltender Max Milosek and defenseman Ethan Strong are expected to take leadership roles according to Krueger, while senior defensemen Nathan Harris is expected to contribute highly to the team’s success.
Krueger believes that the strengths of the team lie within the defense as the team returns five players with experience. Milosek adds experience to the team and a strong talent to keep the nets clear as a senior.
The coaching staff admires the overall attitude and cohesion of the team that looks to build off each other and stay strong through adversity.
“They’re fun to work with, they are coachable, they’re good kids. It makes our job a little bit easier and makes our job that much more rewarding,” Krueger said.
The Pointers host Hamline University on Friday, Nov. 3, in its season home opener. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
“It’s great to be back,” Nong-Lambert added.