|7/3/2018 7:30:00 AM
Lakeland hockey laying a foundation in scrimmages against Rhinelander
While teams are limited in what they can do during the summer months, the Lakeland Union High School boys' hockey team is taking advantage of any opportunities it can find to get on the ice.
The Thunderbirds had a pair of scrimmages last Monday and Wednesday against Rhinelander in hopes to simulate some game situations.
New head coach Jake Suter was looking to see how his players would react in those situations and to see if they would be able to use the knowledge imparted on them during contact days.
"Seeing how they react in game situations and if they put into use what we taught them in contact days with different systems and getting them used to the style of play that I'm expecting out of them," Suter said. "Overall they did great in both scrimmages. I told them before, I don't care if we win these 10-0 or if we lose them 10-0. All I want to see is the effort and the commitment to who we are as a team. They did that both games."
Some coaches want to see their team on the winning end of the scoreboard no matter if it's a regular season game, summer league game or scrimmage, but Suter was not interested in the score in this situation.
He believes winning a scrimmage four months before practice officially begins has no impact on how next season unfolds.
"The competitive part of me wants to win bad(ly) - even these summer scrimmages," Suter said. "But it doesn't mean anything. If you play one or two lines and win the summer scrimmage, it's pointless. I want to roll the lines, play everybody, play JV and varsity guys. Tryouts aren't until November. We don't have a JV or varsity team (right now). We have one team. A lot of guys show me a lot of great things I hadn't seen yet in their open hockey (practices) or contact days."
Suter did, however, pick the lines he would be playing rather than letting the players deciding who they wanted to play with.
Suter wanted to see how veteran players such as Max Toijala, Bryce Gilbertson and Kyle Schaub played with different wingers, while players who didn't see varsity time last year have made it clear they may next year.
"We have a couple good centers and just surrounding those guys with wingers that fit them well," Suter said. "Bryce is really a great leader. He's a good, big, strong kid and Schaub has been awesome. Our older guys that haven't always had varsity opportunities are going to have them this year. Connor Nicklaus, Donavin (Schillinger) - those guys have been working so hard. Dylan Wailand was awesome on Monday and those guys are working their way into roles that are going to be important to this team."
Lakeland is also working a new goaltender into the fold as Collin Guelcher takes over as the starter after the graduation of three-year starter Nathan Pitek.
Guelcher did not attend Wednesday's scrimmage due to his attendance at a goaltender camp, but he has been acclimating himself nicely, according to Suter.
"Collin's going to be a very good goaltender in the next three years for us," Suter said. "He's a very confident kid. He's very competitive and loves to play. He's been to several goaltender camps around the midwest and it's showing. I have a hard time scoring on him in shootouts at the end of practice."
Lakeland now has two more contact days remaining this summer so the task is hoping kids remember what is taught when they return for practice in November.
Suter doesn't think it will be an issue and things will come flooding back once winter practice begins.
"My theory is that it's like riding a bicycle and once they see it drawn up again, they'll remember," Suter said. "I'd rather have it where they already have it in the back of their head then me having to explain it to them again in November. I'll try to get ice times for them, but I won't be on the ice because it's against the rules. We'll keep working different systems so we have that foundation laid for us to expand on."
Nick Sabato may be reached at or via Twitter@NickSabatoLT.