Finlandia hockey looking to build off recent success
HANCOCK — With back-to-back wins in the past week over Northland, 2-1, and Hamline, 4-1, the Finlandia Lions men’s hockey team is finally feeling better about themselves.
After being close for a couple of weeks, but not able to get over that proverbial hump, the Lions turned in a pair of 60-minute efforts, which helped them earn the pair of non-conference victories.
“I think we started the season there, we’re in some tight games and we just couldn’t find that way to win and play a full 60,” captain Connor Hannon said after Tuesday’s victory. “Now we start playing a full 60 and then things start clicking, the boys get some confidence and then roll with it.”
For head coach Joe Burcar, seeing his boys put together back-to-back wins after starting the season 0-7-1 is extremely rewarding. They help boost confidence.
“You could almost see we’re close, we’re not getting a win,” said Burcar. “As a player, you always want to get that win, just have that satisfaction out of it. The deeper was going in the season and four or five games, we finally got that one, it just it takes a lot of pressure off you.
“You can play a little bit more loose and you know you’re not gripping the stick, so to speak, but the biggest thing is just the confidence.”
Burcar and his staff are also happy to get wins because they help reinforce for the players a sense that they can have success at the NCAA Division III level.
“Once they progress, they learn every day, they keep on getting better,” Burcar said. “Even though we weren’t getting the wins, they just kept getting better. Now that they can see our game plan that executes and they’re getting satisfaction.
“They’re seeing that what we’re doing is actually (working). These things are working when they executed well. We just made a lot of mistakes early on with a young team and now we’re eliminating mistakes. We’re still playing at a higher level and will continue moving that way.”
Part of the reason for the improvement over the past two games has been the play of a pair of seniors in Hannon, who had three points against Hamline, and Blake Peavy, who won 22 of his 32 faceoffs he took Tuesday evening.
Hannon, who was moved back to defense before the start of the 2019-20 season, has taken the move in stride, learning how to be an effective player from the back end. He also leads the Lions in scoring with team-highs in goals (6) and points (7).
The team’s leading goal-scorer last season, junior winger Cale Markham, had struggled out of the gate this season with no points through his first nine games. However, against Hamline, he picked up three assists, which Burcar and his staff hope will help spark the third-year scorer.
“We’ve been talking about Cale a lot 1-on-1 and in team meetings,” said Burcar after Tuesday’s win. “It’s nice to see him going. It was probably his best game tonight. That’s the way Cale can play. He’s fast and he can make a lot happen with his speed and he sure did tonight.”
This weekend, the Lions host the Milwaukee School of Engineers Raiders for a two-game series at the Houghton County Arena. The Raiders are 6-1-1 on the season with the loss and tie coming against St. Scholastica last weekend.
In goal, junior Logan Halladay has seen all of the action thus far with a 1.86 goals against average and a .928 save percentage.
Military appreciation night
The Lions will host Military Appreciation Night on Saturday. The Lions will be honoring active and retired members of the U.S. Armed Forces with the team wearing special jerseys for the contest. The jerseys will be auctioned off during the game.
Friday’s game will start at 7:15 p.m. at the Houghton County Arena. Saturday’s game is set to start at 4 p.m.
Women’s team back in action
The women’s hockey team is also home this weekend, hosting Marian on Saturday and Sunday at the Houghton County Arena. Currently 0-7 overall and 0-2 in NCHA play, the Lions are still searching for their first win, but they have been close in several games already this season.
The Sabres are 1-5-1 overall and 0-3-1 in NCHA play through their first seven games of the season. Their first win of the season came in a 1-0 win over Aurora Tuesday, Nov. 26.
Senior Morgan Bolin holds team-highs in goals (4) and points (4).
The Lions and Sabres will faceoff Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Houghton County Arena. Sunday’s contest is set to start at 2:30 p.m.