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Top Hawks ready for new challenge

Top Hawks ready for new challenge
Rochester ready for Year 2 in NA3HL

BY JASON FELDMAN
jfeldman@postbulletin.com

Ian Smyth didn’t like his view of Saturday’s game.  The second-year Rochester Ice Hawks defenseman and first-year and first-time captain – watched from the stands, while healing from an injury, at the Breezy Point Recreation Center as the Ice Hawks lost to the Breezy Point North Stars 8-0 in their season-opening North American 3 Hockey League game.  “That loss doesn’t really represent what we have in this room,” Smyth said after practice Wednesday.  “We have a young team, we just need to keep pushing.  “The signs we’ve seen over the past few weeks are promising, and we know (last weekend’s) game isn’t reflective of who we will be.”

Smyth hopes to be back on the ice Saturday for the Ice Hawks’ home opener at 7:05 p.m, against the Willmar WarHawks at the Rochester Recreation Center.  The 2016-17 Ice Hawks have a good blend of veterans and newcomers, youth and experience.

Rochester has eight returning players from last season’s team, including captains Smyth and Dylan Boysen, both defensemen.  First-year Ice Hawk Nick Wagner also will serve as a captain.

Smyth said the returning players have not forgotten how it felt to finish with a 10-36-1 record last season – and a first-round playoff loss to eventual league champion North Iowa – and they are determined to not repeat it..

“Last year was not the type of year we wanted to have,” Smyth said.  “Sometimes adversity makes you realize what you have to do better as a group, so hopefully some of us older guys can help the new guys adjust a little bit quicker.”

Joining the team’s three captains on the blue line are second-year Ice Hawk Andrew Gates; Ethan Sievek, of Shakopee; Matthew Winsborrow, of Anaheim, California; Rochester Lourdes’ Duncan Adams; and 6 foot, 175-pounder Ryley Cook, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Tuesday.

The Hawks are entirely new in goal, with Drew Schenkenberg, Sawyer Schmidt and Tyler Thompson battling for playing time.  Head coach Nick Fatis, who has been with the Ice Hawks for 20 years, said all three goalies will get a chance to play and earn more playing time.

Up front, returning forwards include Sam Bjellum, Colby DeCarlo, Spencer Hadacek, Colin Hass and Rochester Century grad John Zwarych.

“We have a lot of guys who have shown some upside,” Smyth said.  “The first few shifts are an adjustment period, but it won’t take guys long to adapt to this level of play, especially with the type of practices we have.”

Rochester’s coaching staff – which includes Fatis and assistants Eric Hofmann, Vinnie Susi and Jeff Bolin – said this team will go as its captains go.  But Smyth said he, Boysen and Wagner are ready to embrace that role.  “Boysen works hard and is one of the best defensemen on the team.  What he brings to the ice is unique.  He makes us feel comfortable and confident,” Smyth said.  “Wagner is new to the room, but it’s good to see that someone like him, who pushes himself hard, can come in and (jell).  He has a tough side to him.

“He’ll make sure guys are accountable, but also that when things get hard they don’t give up.  He’s trying to get everybody a little on edge.”

And Smyth hopes to lead by example.  “I can be vocal when I need to be, but I try to work hard and take care of my own stuff and hopefully inspire people to put in their work,” he said.  “This is my first time wearing a letter, which makes it even more special.  I try to take it day by day, work hard, and hopefully inspire guys to follow.”

Good to know •••
• The Rochester Ice Hawks are entering their second season in the North American 3 Hockey League, a Tier III league affiliated with the North American Hockey League.

• The Hawks play their home opener at 7:05 p.m. Saturday against the Willmar WarHawks at the Rochester Recreation Center.