The No. 16 BYU hockey team is looking to build on a strong year a season ago to have a successful 2016-17 campaign.
Head coach Ed Gantt said this year’s team is the strongest he’s had in years.
“We have a healthy mix of returning veteran leaders and new blood who have some real talent,” Gantt said. “I feel after a long period of wandering in the desert, we’re finally turned a corner with the organization.”
Gantt’s focusing on staying positive and helping the team prepare, but it’s up to the team to execute in games.
Gantt said the Cougars have put in their “blood, sweat and tears” on the ice to be the best.
Junior Blake Holmes, one of the team captains, said they have been pushing everyone to focus on improving.
“We have done our best to keep the guys interested in the game from drill to drill, making sure that they continue to work hard,” Holmes said.
Doing drill after drill can sometimes cause practice to become stale. To keep the guys from becoming bored, Gantt implemented small area games to keep their energy flowing throughout practice.
“We’ll use one part of the ice and we’ll have three guys go against three guys in a game,” Gantt said. “They have some rules like you have to pass to every person on the team at least once before you shoot on the net.”
Gantt strives to keep practices light and fun. He balances the competitiveness and fun aspects of hockey because in the end hockey is still a game.
“If you’re not having fun and just doing drill after drill after drill it can get tiresome,” Gantt said.
Aside from keeping the game fun, Gantt is also big on conditioning. The team has spent a lot of time on and off the ice doing working on conditioning.
Junior Ashton Shimbashi echoed Gantt that conditioning’s crucial to building stamina and endurance on the ice.
“If we can spend time where we solely work on foot speed and conditioning, then we can feel confident that everything we practiced on the ice can correlate to a game,” Shimbashi said.
The team hopes to having a winning record and compete in regionals this year.
Holmes said the team has to be ranked at least No. 12 in the West to compete at regionals. To achieve this goal, the team has to be consistent and positive throughout season.
But while they have plenty of aspirations on the ice, their biggest goal doesn’t require pads, sticks or pucks.
They want to be a Christ-centered team.
“One of the things that we’ve strived for a couple years now is to be a Christ-centered hockey team,” Gantt said. “We pray before practices, we pray before games and we pray after games. When somebody gets injured, they get a priesthood blessing by teammates.”
Shimbashi said the brotherhood created between teammates is more important than any game.
“We feel like a family kind of thing because in the end that’s going to be more important than just winning games and I think that helps winning games as well,” Shimbashi said.
The BYU hockey team faces off against UVU on Oct. 15 to start its season.