CHICAGO — After a tough 2-0 loss to the Hamline Pipers last Tuesday, the Finlandia Lions men’s hockey team took a little time off. The four-day break was just what the doctor ordered, according to head coach Joe Burcar.
Players took advantage of the chance to get away from the rink. Some joined teammates who live locally for a Thanksgiving day feast. Others flew home to friends and family.
Timing was everything.
“The timing of that couldn’t have been better,” he said. “We did see some guys over the break that were staying here who worked out or skated, but there were guys that just literally got away, kept their gear here. I think it was the best thing that could happen right now.”
A couple of days back from break, Burcar feels that the locker room was a cheery place for a team that sits 1-9 on the season to this point.
“I mean, the spirits were high on Monday for practice. Tuesday, they were high again,” he said. ” I just think it came at just a timely, timely point for us in the season. Yeah, we haven’t had the success, but there was frustration last week too. We just know, deep down, we’re better than what we’ve proven so far. That break just immensely, just mentally, physically, we needed it.”
The Lions lost sophomore winger Cameron Conover to injury against the Pipers. Multiple others are battling injuries of some kind, but still, having a chance to breathe before hitting the road for the last time in 2021 was what the team needed.
“The frustration was there, but you can’t live on that every day,” said Burcar. “We move forward. Practice has been great this week. Sometimes you get down the road and just keep your team focused and corraled together makes a difference. I think it was the best thing that we could have had right now.”
Burcar, who along with his staff meet with the team captains every day and various numbers of players throughout the week, feels that the players know they have more to give, but also that they feel good about the progress they are making on the ice, despite the lack of results to this point. He describes the meetings as upbeat.
Facing the Foresters
The Lions hit the road this weekend to face the Lake Forest Foresters.
The Lions and the Foresters are set to have their opening faceoff at 5 p.m. Friday at the Lake Forest College Ice Arena in Lake Forest, Illinois. Puck drop for the series finale is 2 p.m. Saturday.
A traditionally strong program in the NCHA, the Foresters are off to an uncharacteristically slow start this season. After sweeping Saint Mary’s to open the season, the Foresters have gone 1-5-1 since with losses to Aurora three times and Manhattanville twice.
The Foresters went through a coaching change in the offseason. Head coach Sean O’Malley served as an assistant coach with Lake Forest for seven years before taking the reigns prior to this season.
“The biggest thing with them is they had a coaching change,” Burcar said. “The coaching change was just an assistant stepping up, so he was in the program for a few years. But, anytime you change the head coaching position, there’s going to be some culture, there’s going to be some change. I think they came out the gates okay, but again, they’ve only played nine games.”
Senior Josh Giacomin has team-highs in assists (6) and points (8) and game-tying goals (1). Sophomore Ben Perkins is also off to a good start with three goals, which ties him for the team lead, and five points.
“I think for us it’s a good opponent. I think we match up well,” said Burcar. “We’ve done the film over and over, and I like the fact that we’re going there. I really like the matchup right now with them.”