After wrapping up the regular season with an 18-4-3 record, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point men’s hockey team sets its sights on the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
The team’s strong season was briefly diverted by a mini-slump during the third week of November when it struggled through a three-game stretch with two consecutive losses and a tie, but the Pointers quickly righted the ship.
Head coach Tyler Krueger attributed some of the team’s early-season struggles to inexperience, but felt that his group rebounded nicely as the younger players got comfortable and earned more playing time over the course of the season.
“I think just everybody getting in on the same page,” Krueger said. “Some of the nine freshman getting their feet wet underneath them and getting some games in and some other guys holding the fort down the first half until those guys get used to the pace of play.”
Junior forward Tanner Karty agreed that inexperience was an issue for the team earlier in the season.
“With the freshman it was little bit of a slow start, hit some bumps in the road, but guys have been coming along well, growing as a team throughout the season,” Karty said.
Senior goalie Max Milosek felt that UWSP’s back-to-back wins against Adrian College in the middle of December were part of a pivotal point in the season and helped the team get back on track.
“You’re always going to have ups and downs throughout the season, but I think we handled adversity well and especially after Adrian came and we got those big wins and then we’ve kind of been rolling since then,” Milosek said.
After picking up a much-needed win against Concordia University on Dec. 8, and after a pair of wins against Adrian College in subsequent contests, the team managed to win 11 of its last 13 games.
With the regular season wrapped up and the conference tournament now squarely in its sights, Karty insists that the team will go about its business as usual despite the change in format.
“I don’t think our game really changes much. We just played at what? Four or five games of conference? And now we’re going to play two more this weekend and then we go into conference tournament, so I think we’re kind of just sticking with what we’re doing and we’ll be all right,” Karty said.
Milosek agreed and expanded on the team’s mindset as it prepares for the postseason.
“Yeah, I think it’s just maintaining what we’re doing and paying attention to the little things,” Milosek said. “We need pretty much every game here–we need a win–so, just kind of focusing on one game at a time more so instead of focusing on or thinking its conference or playoffs or anything like that.”
With the way the season has unfolded this year, the team’s ultimate goal of winning the national championship is still within reach.
“We’re set up right now, we kind of control our own destiny right now so we take care of what can take care of and that should be the end outcome,” Karty said.
The WIAC Tournament semifinals run from Feb. 23 to Feb. 24.
The championship final is scheduled for Mar. 3.