WATERLOO – The puck drops on a new season for a Waterloo Warriors team full of new faces on Friday.
Last year, a team made up of seniors dominated the regular season en route to a 29-2-0-1 record and won the Midwest High School Hockey League regular season championship.
In the MHSHL tournament, the Warriors fell short, placing fourth after a 2-0 semifinal loss to the Des Moines Capitals.
Returning just six players who appeared in more than 20 games last season and 14 players who appeared on the varsity roster, the Warriors will need to replace a significant portion of their production from last season.
Head coach Brian Cook said the Warriors are made up of a majority of underclassmen, which could cause growing pains at the start of the season.
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“It will probably be a rebuilding year with the number of young players who will have to play in college and the limited number of older players – juniors and seniors – compared to previous years,” Cook said. “Successful teams are usually older teams. … We try to look to improve each week as we go.
With 28 players appearing on the college roster for the first time this season, Cook said his players will have to adapt to the high speed of college play.
He added that the physique of the MHSHL will be another aspect that his players will have to adapt to.
“It’s a big leap from playing Bantams or playing JV in college hockey,” Cook said. “The other challenge is also to rely on such a young team with their physicality, keeping everyone healthy. … That’s my concern with such a young team. We could encounter injuries.
Between the posts, the Warriors have a big hole to fill after the graduation of goaltender Caleb Raisty, the MHSHL’s all-time career leader in save percentage with a mark of .952 after three seasons as a starter. . Raisty also broke the single-season save percentage record with a .959 save percentage last season.
“They’re really big shoes,” Cook said. “We don’t expect them to come close to what Caleb has given us the last three years. We are working on systems that will prevent the number of shots throughout the year. Hopefully our goalkeepers can stop the first shot, then we’ll take care of the rebound.
According to Cook, inexperience in net – Waterloo only field sophomores or juniors at this position – will force Waterloo to be precise in their defensive zone.
Cook has named Waterloo West sophomore Gavin Jebe as the likely opening night starter between the pipes tonight. Jebe played three games with the Warriors varsity junior team last season, including a shutout victory.
Another option in net for the Warriors is Waverly-Shell Rock rookie Jocelyn Endelman. Although she may not have been a college contributor to begin with, Cook highly valued her potential.
“She’s probably going to step in and play a lot of games for us, whether it’s JV or college,” Cook said. “Her work ethic is pretty good – she fears nothing…In first year, it’s really good to see. She has very good fundamentals and she works hard. We have high hopes for her in the future to win us hockey games at the college level.
Up front, Waterloo lost eight of its top 10 scorers from last season, a group that accounted for 109 of the Warriors’ 133 goals.
Cook said the Warriors will look to Waterloo East senior Jayden White, Columbus Catholic’s Max Schuchmann and Denver sophomores Dayton Niedert and Andrew Bushbaum to provide a “punching punch.”
Niedert leads all returning players with 7 goals and 13 assists in 30 games last season. Bushbaum had 7 goals and 6 assists while White added 2 goals and 2 assists.
Schuchmann returns to the Warriors after spending time playing for teams outside of Waterloo. Schuchmann played for the Northstar Christian Academy 16U AAA team in the North American Premiere Hockey League, scoring 4 goals and 6 assists in 24 games last season.
Cook said the Warriors are working to temper expectations after last season, pick up their pieces early and hit their stride at the right time.
“Our goal is to make the state tournament,” Cook said. “We don’t want to set our expectations too high at the start. We will probably reset our expectations throughout the season. … If we progress with our maturity and we get a better game, we can adjust that. Initially, we are looking to improve throughout the year, make the tournament and then make a splash at the tournament at the end of the year.
“Sometimes you’re going to go through a year where you kind of have to struggle and build guys from scratch. You have to keep an eye on them on the ball which we are also building for the future with this year.
The Warriors open their home season with a game against the Ames Cyclones on Friday at 8 p.m.