HANCOCK - In their most recent game, the Finlandia men's hockey team fell 4-2 at the Houghton County Arena to a previously winless Northland team - a squad they had beaten 8-1 the night before.
But it wasn't the loss or inconsistent series that bothered head coach John McCabe the most. It was the complete difference in energy between a listless Lions and motivated Northland team.
"I think for us the (Thanksgiving) break couldn't have come at a better time," McCabe said. "We were a little worn down. Especially the young guys adjusting to the early grind of the season. It really helped that the break came, especially after a disappointing loss where we really didn't bring the energy that night."
Finlandia will try to right the ship today against Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association division opponent Lawrence.
The Appleton, Wis.-based university got the better of Finlandia last season, winning four of five games, including a sweep in the playoffs that ended the Lions season.
This year, Lawrence has struggled out of the gates to a 2-6 record (with a 2-4 mark in MCHA play). This means the Lions can surely expect frenetic energy from Lawrence, as the Vikings look to avoid digging too deep a hole early in the season.
If practice is any indication, the Lions will be ready to match it this time around.
"There was a real good mood this week in practice," McCabe said. "The legs are back for us. We have had a good jump going into this weekend.
"The intensity factor really is key for us. That is the process we are trying to install. We are good enough to win, but only if we play 60 minutes each night."
Along with upping the intensity, Finlandia must play intelligently to succeed at Lawrence.
The Vikings play an extremely aggressive defensive system, pressuring the puck all over the ice, and keeping turnovers down will be key according to McCabe.
In previous games, Finlandia has struggled to transition through the neutral zone.
"You can't over handle the puck against a team like this," McCabe said. "There are a few things that we keyed on, but at the base of it is being smart with the puck.
"It is really puck management all over the ice. (Lawrence) is a team that forces other teams to turn the puck over and they put a lot of pucks on net. They can score some goals."
With four games left before the winter break, McCabe is hoping the scoresheet will start showing a few more names to go with leading scorer Collin Saint-Onge (seven goals in seven games).
While several have contributed in spurts this season, the Lions are looking for more consistency from their top three lines.
"You can't just rely on one guy because teams can take that away," McCabe said. "There are some guys who have had some chances and are playing well, but they have hit some posts and crossbars. But it would be nice to see other guys contribute this weekend."