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Hockey skates back into action after long hiatus

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Article Originally Published by Tyler Luker on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Tyler Luker on North Texas Daily

 

After more than a year off the ice, North Texas hockey looks to hit the ground running in their season opener against the Texas State University Bobcats on Sept. 24 at StarCenter Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas.

The Mean Green’s last season came to an end on Jan. 23, 2020, where they finished with a 1-19-2 record. Assistant coach Andrew Lillie believes that the team can turn it all around.

“The faster we can get everybody on the same page, the quicker we can get results,” Lillie said.

COVID-19 took its toll on North Texas Hockey, as their 2020-21 season was in limbo for most of the year until it was eventually canceled. This led to some players not being able to participate in their final year of eligibility as well as some players choosing not to return.

Morale in the locker room is high, as the players are restless after a year and a half, even though they are still working on getting back to form

“We’re still knocking the rust off, which is all the more reason to be excited because we look really good out there,” junior defenseman Max Alford said. “Everyone is getting their stamina back after sitting on the couch for a full year and a half.”

With only six players returning, the team has a whole new look compared to the last season. Alternate captain William Kinard thinks that this change of personnel can bode well for the Mean Green.

Alongside Kinard, senior forward Preston Lamm, junior defenseman Josh Wright and senior forward Payton Lafferty are also alternate captains. The team will be without a singular captain this season.

“I expect them to exhibit the leadership that comes with having a letter on their jersey,” Lillie said. “It falls on the leadership group to show the new guys the ropes and keep things gelled.”

North Texas is a relatively young team going into the upcoming season. Alford expects the team’s youth to generate some wins.

“A lot of people see a freshman and overlook them,” Alford said. “We’ve got 14 or 15 new guys, and each of them have stepped up and played a key role.”

Lillie named senior forward Eric Eaton, sophomore defenseman Stefan Kruger and freshman defenseman Brandt Reed as some impactful players to look out for on the ice. Eaton was the team’s leading scorer last season, notching 27 goals and dishing 14 assists in just 15 games played. Kruger and Reed will be making their Mean Green debut.

“Eric’s definitely poised to have another great season,” Lillie said. “On defense, Kruger and Reed are both great new players to the core, and I’m excited to see what they can bring.”

In the 2019-20 season, one of the team’s main struggles was keeping the puck out of the net, allowing 12.4 goals a game on average. This high mark can be attributed to the Mean Green’s lack of an actual goalie.

“That was one of our biggest things that we had to fix right away,” Kinard said. “We have a very good goalie situation now as compared to two years ago.”

Alford thinks the key to success for the upcoming season will be the offensive production from all four lines.

“It is pretty impressive to look through the depth on the offense and see how good each line looks,” Alford said. “Any line could be the first line on any given night.”

Lillie’s game plan for the opener against the Bobcats is to use the team’s skating to their advantage.

“With the speed we have, I really think we can impose ourselves,” Lillie said. 

Image source Twitter

Source: North Texas Daily

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