Lawrence is banking on an austerity plan, which means the Vikings will have to pare their goals-against to reach the Midwest College Hockey Association’s upper tier. The team surrendered 111 goals last season while only scoring 95.
The clampdown starts with senior netminder Evan Johnson, whose performance slipped last season (7-8-1, 3.79 GAA, .877 save-percentage) after a stellar sophomore campaign when he registered seven shutouts.
Johnson’s preseason work regimen has Lawrence’s coach believing the senior is ready to return to his elite form.
“We need our goaltender to be excellent and we need to be committed to our style of play,” Vikings coach Mike Szkodzinski said. “We are a defense-first squad who competes hard.”
The Vikings’ ultimate trump card may be their depth up front. Several players are poised for career seasons, which will be needed to replace last season’s leading scorer Marc Howe (19 goals, 13 assists, 32 points).
Forward Ben DiMarco is back after pumping in 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points last season, as is junior Matt Hughes, whose 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points ranked among the team’s top-five point-getters. Gustav Ahlberg, who also had a 20-point campaign in 2009-10, returned to Sweden.
Other forwards likely to produce include Sam Johnson (nine goals, five goals, 14 assists) and Josh DeSmit (one goal, 12 assists, 13 points).
“We will likely see a few different line combos before we settle in,” Szkodzinski said. “But we are excited because it will be difficult to determine who is in and who is out each night.”
Blue line sniper Jameson Raymond (five goals, 17 assists, 22 points) who quarterbacks the Vikings power play, also returns.
A bevy of freshmen adds another variable to the Vikings attack.
William Thoren, a 6-foot and 180-pound defenseman from Gothenberg, Sweden, is expected to see ample time on the power play while John Orrico (CD Selects), Paul Zuke (St. Louis Jr. Blues CSHL) and Huck Sanders (New England Huskies EJHL) will make an immediate impact.
“We’re real happy with our freshman in how they approach the game, their work ethic and their willingness to be coached,” Szkodzinski says. “Blending in nine new faces can be a chore, but this group has fit right in to our team.”