For the past three seasons, the Concordia Falcons were at the bottom of the conference, unable to get more than two wins in any of those seasons. That all turned around last spring when the team began its first step in a complete overhaul.
Last March, Jasen Wise was hired as the new head coach, and he was a breath of fresh air for the bottom-dwelling program. He came in with an entirely new system and brought with him a can-do attitude.
The Falcons have already compiled a 4-3-0 overall and 4-2-0 MCHA record this season, which matches the program’s most wins since the 2008-09 season. They didn’t manage to get their fourth win until early February in that stand.
Their schedule hasn’t been a breeze, and shows no signs of letting up. They opened the season with a loss to reigning national champion St. Norbert, followed by a sweep by defending Harris Cup champions, Milwaukee School of Engineering.
“It helped playing two ranked teams for the freshmen to see what it takes to compete at this level,” Wise said of the tough schedule.
Things started looking up after those three competitive losses. The Falcons are currently on a four game winning streak. Two consecutive weekend sweeps of conference foes Lawrence and Lake Forest have Concordia singing a new tune.
“(The streak) helps prepare us,” Wise said. “The team is buying into our systems, building into a ‘defense comes first’ mentality. It’s building our confidence; there is more flow with the team and more chemistry.”
Concordia’s roster is comprised of 23 freshmen, three sophomores and three juniors. Those 23 rookies are a big reason that the team isn’t fazed by its less-than-stellar history in the conference.
Solid freshmen leadership has been influential to the start of their season. Freshman goaltender Jake Hebda has been solid between the pipes. He has already earned two MCHA Player of the Week honors this season.
“We knew the key to having so many freshmen would be solid goaltending; Jake has a lot of confidence, doesn’t get rattled,” Wise said.
The improving team won’t compete this weekend, but will face a four-game road battle against two ranked opponents. They will first travel to play Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and then compete against defending MCHA regular season champions Adrian.
“This week, we’re going to focus on getting healthy,” Wise said, “After that, we’ll work on the offensive zone and come back next week strong.”
It is too early in the season to see where the chips will fall; however, Concordia is playing with real effort and will definitely be fighting while hoping for a few more wins until the end.