With 12 returning seniors, the DHS hockey team did not have much room on the roster for other players, especially when it came to underclassmen, but this year four sophomores joined the squad.
Cay Wagner, Nick Sleeper, Johnny Wilson and Alex Farrell made it through tryouts, but now the real test comes as they start their first season on a DHS varsity sports team. With a combination of practices every day after school other than on game days, weightlifting twice a week and some weekend games mixed in with games during the week, the new team members have a lot to get used to.
“Practices have been very difficult,” Wagner said. “Coach Blasy recognizes the talent on the team and will do anything in his power to have us succeed. When I’ve asked the older players they say the amount of skating is much greater than in past years. Conditioning is stressed a lot and hopefully it will set us apart.”
The dynamic of the team is something else the sophomores have been getting used to the past few weeks. Playing with students who aren’t in the same grade as them is something that will take some getting used to, but so far it is going well.
“Everybody is relaxed,” Sleeper said. “We just do whatever, whenever. We listen to random music: country, Michael Jackson, really anything. The locker room environment changes every day.”
One setback of being new to the squad is not having experience on the ice with all of the team members. Simply knowing all of the team and not having to think about how they operate is something that takes a lot of pressure off at games and greatly improves the team’s overall performance.
“Since there are 12 seniors they have played together for most of their careers,” Sleeper said. “They already know each other and they can play really well together because they know what to do on the ice.”
Wagner agreed that fitting into the way this year’s team plays comes with time and will improve as they practice more and are able to identify different players’ strengths.
“The experience that the seniors bring to the ice cannot be matched,” Wagner said. “Special teams and other tactic-based aspects of the game thrive because the seniors have played together for at least two years under the same coach.”
While the new players believe they will be faced with a variety of challenges, they think their hard work will be rewarded when the season is considered in larger terms. The opportunity to wear a DHS jersey and play on a team with a variety of older classmates is something that the sophomores are most looking forward to take away from the experience.
“The thing that is different about this team is the support and sense of family given by the school,” Wagner said. “I haven’t had the kind of the support that the student section brings to the games and that has to be my favorite thing about being on the team.”
After weeks of practices, a scrimmage and a few games, there hasn’t seemed to be a division between the younger players and those who have been on the team longer. The only thing differentiating upperclassmen from the sophomores is experience on the ice and from being on the team in previous seasons.
“I don’t feel separated from the upperclassmen,” Sleeper said. “They have really taken [the underclassmen] in under their wing.”
While the juniors and seniors may have more familiarity with some aspects of how the team works, plays they run and high school games, the sophomores are excited for the season and anticipate that there will be good chemistry among the team as a whole.
“The upperclassmen have been very welcoming, ranging from the little things like offering a ride to practice to the big things like planning a team dinner,” Wagner said. “This team is a family, plain and simple. We are all striving for a common goal and working our hardest to get there.”