After a precipitous drop from first to last place in 2009-10, the Yellowjackets have removed their stomachs from their mouths and have pushed the elevator button to go back up.
The team is already on pace to erase last term’s dreadful run, starting this season at 3-1, including a split against NCHA-foe University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Last season’s showing was particularly hard to swallow, since it came on the heels of a first place (11-1-2) finish in 2008-09, which included a NCAA D-III tournament bid.
“It’s in the past,” coach Dan Stauber said on the school’s web site. “We aren’t going to talk about last year anymore.
“This year is a new year and we’re approaching it with a clean slate. It’s a new team.”
With 15 freshmen and 12 sophomores, the Yellowjackets definitely possess that new-car smell.
Defensemen Jeff Forsythe (2 goals, 1 assist) and forward Tyler Klein (2 goals, 1 assist) were two standout freshmen in the early going.
Forward Talon Berlando, one of the team’s four senior captains, had two goals and two assists in the Yellowjackets’ opening four games, while forward Logan Isley, also a senior, had a goal and two assists.
In goal, freshman Drew Strandberg and sophomore Garrett Tinkham are locked in a battle for the starting position.
Strandberg is 2-0, which includes a 25-save shutout against Concordia College Nov. 6, while Tinkham (1-1) was in goal for the team’s 5-3 setback to UW-River Falls on Oct. 29. As a freshman, Tinkham was 4-2 with a modest 3.30 goals-against average.
“We graduated a lot of players and we have a big freshman group,” Stauber said. “It’s safe to say that other coaches aren’t sure what they’re going to get from us this year, and that’s why we are where we are.”
To give the youth corps an additional hurdle, the team’s first seven games are away from home. The first game at Wessman Arena is Nov. 27 against St. Thomas.