Rockwell getting a chance to prove himself

HOUGHTON — As a sophomore, having 12 games under one’s belt might not seem like much, but for defenseman Tyler Rockwell, those 12 contests represent something big: an opportunity.

The 5-foot-8 blueliner from San Jose, California, whose father was a goaltender for Michigan Tech, has worked his way into the lineup and has already played more games (seven) than he did as a freshman (five). He has taken advantage of injuries to sophomore Mitch Meek and freshman Eric Gotz, and is working to make the most of the chance.

“I think it’s been a lot of fun so far,” said Rockwell. “We’ve strung together six really good efforts over the past six games against some pretty good teams.”

Getting a chance to play in six straight games, Rockwell has had a chance to build up his consistency, something that plagued him, at times, as a freshman. Though he only has one point, an assist, he is tied for the team lead in plus-minus, at a plus-four, with co-captain Jake Lucchini.

“Personally, I think I’m finding a rhythm where I get to play more (by) getting to play with different partner pairings (and) building chemistry with them,” he said.

Team chemistry can carry a team forward and for a player like Rockwell, that chemistry is created through a team bond. As the team has worked to improve its play together, he has begun to thrive.

Rockwell feels that the Huskies’ bond is growing as the young players work their way into the lineup. This has given him confidence in his own abilities.

“When you know where someone else is on the ice is at all times, you are able to make quicker plays (by being able to) find them on the ice. You know their tendencies.”

Rockwell has been given an opportunity to prove himself this season; right now, he is trying to focus on improving his own game so that his teammates can rely on him in key situations.

“While not playing really makes you work harder, and really helps you build character, when someone’s out, you feel for them,” said Rockwell. “There’s a lot of good players on the team, (but) it’s just a matter of when you get your chance.”

His recent success has not come without some direction from his coaches, hard work in the offseason and a strong team structure around him.

“Something that coaches have told me is to be more aggressive, move my feet, be more involved in the play (and) engage people,” Rockwell said. “If I just continue to do that, I will hopefully get more opportunities.”

On the ice, Rockwell feels that the team, despite early injuries, is playing well.

“In regards to the team, I think we’re ahead of where we were last year,” he said. “I think a lot more people are understanding the systems earlier on in the season.”

Rockwell took advice from head coach Joe Shawhan’s staff about improving upon his 160-pound frame.

“I think I just had a good summer and was able to work a lot on my game and get a lot bigger (by) building on some strength,” Rockwell said. “Being a smaller defenseman, that’s really important.”

While he wants to stay in the lineup, Rockwell knows things can change at any time. Right now, as he and his teammates prepare to face Alaska, he is focused on taking in as much as he can.

“I think it’s great,” he said of getting the chance to play consistenly. “Any type of experience is good. I mean that’s one of the ways that you build confidence is (through) experiences. I’ll just continue to take everything in like a spunge and go from there.”