L'ANSE - The L'Anse hockey program may have to focus on future promise than day-to-day success in 2012-13.
However, that's OK, because it has a much brighter future.
"The biggest thing is we're an extremely young group. We're stacked with a lot of ninth and 10th grade kids. We're looking forward to it being a good rebuilding year, hopefully," new coach Darrin Voskuhl said.
L’Anse goaltender Jason Rank makes a save during a January Wisigan Cup game against Milwaukee SHAW?at MacInnes Student Ice Arena as Cody Goldsworthy looks on. Both are seniors on a young, but deep, L’Anse hockey team for 2012-13. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Voskuhl, an assistant under Bill Rosseau last year, had 27 kids try out for the team, meaning he had to make roster cuts for the first time in recent memory. It's a big lift in the numbers department for a program that skated as few as a dozen players just last year.
The biggest difference may come from the south, as co-operative partner West Iron County has provided nine players for the 2012-13 squad after one and zero in the first two years of the arrangement. One of the new WIC students is a senior, but the rest are ninth and 10th graders, as are many of the new players on the roster.
"We have a lot of young talent. I think we're going to go through some growing pains this year with a young group, but there's a lot to build on over the next couple years," Voskuhl said.
The Hornets open their season tonight at Marinette/Menominee before kicking off Lake Superior Hockey Conference play with a home game Monday night against Kingsford.
Two seniors in particular will lead this group of young Hornets out of the nest.
The first is senior forward Cody Goldsworthy. The All-U.P. football player brings that same physicality to the game on the blue line.
"He's taken on a leadership role already for the group, and we're looking for him to have a strong year on the defensive side," Voskuhl said.
Another senior returning is goaltender Jason Rank.
"I believe he can be an extremely good goaltender when he's playing well," Voskuhl said.
L'Anse will have to build from the back after losing the scorers of 50 of its 55 goals in the 2011-12 season to graduation (including Alex VanWagner, who had 26 of those).
Some of those West Iron County players, like senior Brett Hebert, are top among those from which Voskuhl expects scoring to come from this season.
"He's got some talent there, so I'm looking for him to be one of our main offensive contributors," he said.
Given the talent level this young group will face, Voskuhl said his team knows it will have to bring its best game.
At this point, he just wants to play an aggressive style and make it difficult for teams to move the puck against his Hornets.
"For one, we're going to have to play extremely physical. We're also going to have to play extremely fast," he said.