Ice Jacks prep for next season: position battles and schedule outlook
By Matt Esaena
The Division-II Ice Jacks had their most successful season from 2011-12 after finishing 16th in the nation. Opening night for the hockey club is right around the corner, and this year, the Ice Jacks players and coaches are expecting an even better campaign.
Here are some predictions and keys for the upcoming season for NAU.
Leading scorer: Sophomore forward Vinny Eck. It’d be hard to find someone on the team, or even in the league, who works harder than Eck does when he is on the ice. He put up 25 points in his rookie campaign and had to spend time on the injured list due to a broken wrist, but the forward is feeling great and with his work ethic, good positioning and along with his quick hands and fast feet, Eck should be able to lead the team in points.
Top defenseman: Junior Dillon Butenhoff. Butenhoff will have to be the Jacks best defenseman this season if they want to see results similar to the past. Butenhoff will more than likely log more minutes than any other blue liner this season by playing against the other teams top line and also manning the blue line for power-plays and penalty-kills.
Rookie of the year: Freshman forward Dedrick Wiese. He has the size and speed to make an immediate impact, not to mention he’ll start the season on a line with junior forwards Greg Park and Ryan Greenspan, who were first and third on the team last season in scoring. Wiese should be able to get off to a quick start and gain some confidence to help keep him stay consistent through the season.
Goaltending: The Ice Jacks have no problems in this department. Junior James Korte and senior Quinn Mason will spilt time in net for NAU. The past year, both these of tenders had middle-of-the-pack numbers. Korte had a 3.71 goals against average and nine wins, but he was coming off an hernia injury from the prior season, so after a year of being healthy look for Korte’s numbers to improve. This past season, Mason did not play terribly. He had seven wins and a save percentage of .890, but it was not like the season he had two years ago when he was a league-leader in almost every category. That year, the net minder had only let in 82 goals in 27 starts and had 586 saves. If Mason can return to that form the Jacks will have a chance to win every time he starts in-between the pipes.
MVP: Any hockey fans knows that for a team to go on a deep playoff run, the team’s MVP has to be its goaltender. Mason and Korte are both more than capable of carrying their team for an extended amount of time. One of these goalies, if not both, have to be the backbone of the team.
Schedule highlights: NAU will play their in-state rival, ASU, eight times. Nobody likes losing to their rival, but ASU took first this past season in the conference, so winning three or four of these games would be a positive note for the Ice Jacks.
Nov. 16 and 17: San Diego State University (SDSU) comes to Flagstaff. NAU is 0–6 in their past six regular season games against SDSU, but NAU was able to get over their kryptonite in the regional playoff tournament where they eliminated the Aztecs. SDSU will come in with confidence knowing the numbers are in their favor while they look to avenge that playoff upset.
Three keys to success:
1. Staying out of the penalty box. NAU, as a team, had 616 penalty minutes this past season. The Ice Jacks make it too easy for their opponent to get scoring chances when they are constantly sending players to the sin bin.
2. NAU has to win to be able to win on the road. This past season, nine of the team’s 12 losses came when the hockey club played away from Jay Lively Ice Arena. If the Ice Jacks want to improve their record and gain a higher seed in the standings come playoff time, they will have to come through when away from of their own barn.
3. Stay healthy. Like every hockey team experiences, the Ice Jacks were bit by the injury bug last year. In order to maintain success, NAU will need everyone healthy through the season. The Ice Jacks will start the season with a key injury. Senior forward Nick Short will miss the first 3-4 weeks of the season due to a hand injury.