As the ice melts on Youngstown State University’s hockey team, the players and coach are thawing out from a chilling season record.
The Penguins finished 6-19, something coach Mike Poljak said wasn’t what they wanted to see.
“Record[wise] and statwise, the season didn’t go as planned,” Poljak said. “We definitely played the type of hockey I knew we could play by the end of the season, which showed by us beating nationally ranked [University of Pittsburgh] and knocking them out of nationals.”
YSU beat the Panthers, 3-1, on Feb. 10 at the Ice Zone in Boardman.
Freshman defenseman Mike Gorgacz agreed with Poljak’s thoughts about the season.
“I don’t think we had the season we were all hoping for, but there were still some high points for us,” Gorgacz said. “I think we finished stronger than how we started, which was good.”
The Penguins face the challenge of replacing their five senior leaders. Poljak said they would be missed.
“The seniors were a huge part of our team,” Poljak said. “They all played a lot of minutes and were relied on game in and game out. I am proud of their efforts and positive impact on our team. They will all be successful in the near future.”
Freshman forward John Vanasdale said the team should be able to recover from losing its seniors, even though it will be tough.
“Unfortunately, we lose some seniors, two of our goalies,” Vanasdale said. “But we have faith in our goalie for next season.”
Freshman Wiley Collett will take over the goaltending duties next season. He won his only start this season, 7-1, against the University of Rochester on Dec. 3.
Poljak said next season would take a team effort. He can already see Vanasdale and Gorgacz stepping up.
“John is an exciting player that is sure to put up big numbers,” Poljak said. “Mike is a powerful forward that began to adjust well to the speed and physicality of college hockey near the end of the season.”
Vanasdale was second on the team in both goals and total points with nine and 20. Gorgacz finished the season with a goal and three assists, contributing most on the defensive end.
Gorgacz said it means a lot to be thought of as an emerging leader.
“Honestly, I learned pretty much everything from the seniors this past year,” Gorgacz said. “I look forward to leading the team and having a better season than we had last season.”
Vanasdale said the opportunity excites him.
“I just need to come in every day, work hard, make sure you are there and doing what you have to do,” Vanasdale said. “I think I can do that pretty well and help improve the team next season.”
Poljak cited sophomore defenseman Brian Helbley as someone who showed great improvement last season. He sees him getting only better.
“His continuous solid play led to him playing a significant amount of minutes every game,” Poljak said.
Gorgacz said he also looks forward to getting better for next season.
“Personally, going to the gym every day is real important,” Gorgacz said. “A lot of guys work out over the summer. All of it is on your own, and it is just a matter of how much better you want to get.”
Poljak said he hopes the team is ready for next season, and said the Penguins deserve a break in the offseason.
“Offseason is for the guys to get away from hockey for a little while,” Poljak said. “They can get into the gym, do well in their classes and then come back next season, hungry to play.”