The Michigan women”s hockey club added eight freshmen to this year”s roster, but one wouldn”t guess that after watching one of its games.
On Saturday night, the team out-shot Buffalo for a 4-0 home win to improve to 5-0-2. Yesterday, Michigan showed no signs of inexperience as it overcame an early 2-0 deficit to tie Michigan State 3-3 at Yost Ice Arena.
“All of the freshmen came in from programs that were very intense,” head coach Hal Krenkel said of his team”s rapid development. “They knew how to play already. They were used to this level of play. Also, the upperclassmen are always around to hang out with the freshmen, which has helped a lot for team chemistry.”
Anyone who followed this team last season might have expected more of a letdown this year. The Wolverines finished 30-2-3 on the way to winning their league and finishing fifth at the national championships last spring. But graduation forced Michigan to bring in a lot of new faces this season.
“The freshmen came in with a lot more skill than we ever anticipated,” senior Stacey Kilarski said, one of the team”s two leading scorers through eight games. “They are all really good skaters, really good stick-handlers. And we”re finally joining as a team everyone is getting to know each other.”
Unlike a varsity program, the women”s hockey club is coached by students. Krenkel, who also coached the team last season, is a junior in the Division of Kinesiology. He began with the program as a volunteer assistant during his freshman year. The team”s assistant coach, Gordie Scott, is a freshman in LS&A.
“I think it”s helped to have a student as a coach because he knows the pressures of school as well as hockey,” Kilarsky said.
Said Krenkel: “In the beginning I thought (being the same age as the players) would be a little weird, but after the first week or so it was clear that they still have the same respect for me that they would for an older coach. I can also relate to them a lot more than an older person could, being in school and understanding that they have classes. Besides that, I don”t think there”s a real difference between me and someone older.”
The women”s game is a little different than men”s hockey because checking is not allowed. But despite the differences in rules, the intensity is still high.
“Because there”s no checking, you don”t have to keep your head up as much in women”s hockey,” Krenkel said.
“Women”s hockey is a little less physical than men”s. It”s more of a finesse game with faster stick-handling and a little faster skating,” Kilarski said.
Despite the team”s undefeated record thus far in 2001, Krenkel still sees room for improvement.
“We”re playing well right now but we”re playing a lot better in practice,” Krenkel said. “As soon as we start playing as well as we do in practice, this team is really going to come together.”
The Wolverines are hoping to continue to come together during a pair of games on the road next weekend.