Small Team, Short Time, Big Season

Senior Shawn Flannigan races for possession of the puck trying to get a stick on it. The Wildcats tied Fremont 5-5 that game.

Senior Shawn Flannigan races for possession of the puck trying to get a stick on it. The Wildcats tied Fremont 5-5 that game.

Andrew Pfeifer, Staff Writer

As the early signs of winter begin to show across the metro, hockey season is just beginning for the Wildcats. Already 11 games into the season, the 5-4-2 Wildcats are performing in a way that most spectators wouldn’t have thought coming into the season.  

Although the team doesn’t lack talent, they are little short-handed with an 11 man roster. In years past, the Wildcats have shown strength with depth as they’ve had at least 15 players on the ice.

Faced with a short team, they struggle to make it through the whole game without being utterly exhausted, yet managed to pull out a winning record.

“It’s important that we have quick changes out on the ice,” senior captain Jaden Cover said. “We make sure that none of the players are out there for too long costing us deeply later in the game.”

With a lot of potential to come, the young team is defined by their leadership. The team is lead by Cover, with the senior assistant captains Jack McQuade and Garren Morris. Their chemistry on the ice is like none other giving the younger players the ability to find their role.    

“I like to lead by example and we just try to hustle every play,” Morris said. “I believe that we have a truly skilled team and we’re going to bring competition to the table.”

With many more games to go in the season, the team faces the challenge of avoiding injuries before hitting the post season. Their practices are typically short and not very intense in an effort to keep the team healthy.   

Cover delivers a huge hit as Papillion player released the puck.

One could imagine a hockey practice being challenging, but scheduling “ice time” for a team is true hassle. Ice time is when a team can rent out an ice complex to use for a practice. These are typically for an hour at a time, making it difficult for most teams to have a quality practice.

Practices are held once or twice a week. The staff believes it’s necessary to always keep the young team fresh and on the ice, even if it’s for a short period of time.

“Practices are typically light and fun and we do a lot of scrimmaging,” Morris said. “But when it’s time to work, we make sure we prepare in the best way possible to put our team in a position to be successful.”

When the time for training does arrive for the Wildcats, their focus is directed towards winning the faceoff – this is when the puck is placed in the middle of the ice and the both sides battle for possession. Their key to success is getting immediate possession of the puck and passing it down to any of their fast skaters who have a lane and a chance for a quick shot.

Although this strategy may be risky, it hasn’t failed the Wildcats yet as they are one of the top scoring offenses in Nebraska, despite a short team with little in-season training, the young

group is putting up better numbers than never before. They sit in one of the top positions in the state as they continue with their rewarding season. One of the Wildcat’s top qualities is their combination of skill and effort out on the ice. The team’s high scoring habits have lead them on to many victories with the potential for more to come.

“I believe the potential is there to go all the way and win it all,” Cover said. “We just need to piece together a few games and play all three periods.”

Although their record is almost even at this point, it is still very early in the season for this team. With more development to come around, the team can satisfyingly say that they are improving on both sides of the puck.  

Their main challenge towards the end of the season will be focused on an opponent that the Wildcats have come to despise the most, the Tri-City Junior Storm. Tri-City, an elite hockey team who proves time and time again, dominates the ice. Their astonishing performances blowing out other teams will be a possible roadblock for the Wildcats.

After being knocked out of the championship the previous year at the feet of this three town bundle (Kearney, Grand Island, Hastings), there’s nothing the Wildcats want more than to beat this team.

Millard West have already played Tri-City twice this season. The first game the Wildcats held a 3-1 lead at the start of the 3rd period, which was then demolished late in the game giving Tri-City a lucky victory.

The second most recent competition was deja vu for the Wildcats, losing again, 3-4.

Although the team faces four loses already in the season, they’ve been held at the wire. All the Wildcats need is to build off their losses and continue through the momentum that has carried them this far. Their second shot to defeat the giant will soon come again as the Wildcats move on to fight another day.

Battling with a small team and little time for practice would be difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but the Wildcats are looking to do much more. Them playing the way they do through the challenges they face will build character throughout the program and will make them successful in the postseason. The Wildcats next competition will be held on December 13th at Ralston arena. The game starts at 6:15p.m. as the Wildcats will host Metro North for their next matchup. Be sure to show your support and represent our Wildcats as they continue their tough journey through an interesting season to say the least.