Entering his first season as coach of the Vikings, Mike Szkodzinski is more than excited about the prospects of the Lawrence program.
“It’s an opportunity to create an atmosphere based on great pride and character,” he said. “This is a school with great academics and an athletic director who is fully supportive. This is something I am really excited about.”
Unfortunately, he takes over a program that has struggled somewhat over the past few seasons. While admitting that success won’t come immediately or easily, he’s hoping the injection of a new attitude to the program will help get Lawrence headed in the right direction.
“The first thing we have to do is create a culture of hard work and discipline,” he said. “It all starts there. I want that to be one of the strengths of this team, and I think it will be. Consistency, discipline and work-ethic need to be our strengths.”
Citing his four captains in particular in David Olynyk, Josh Peterson, Aaron LaFave and Evan Thornton, Szkodzinski hopes the attitude will catch hold and establish the basis for improvement.
“Those are guys who I expect to lead by example,” he said.
When it comes to the Lawrence team that will actually take the ice, senior goalie Andrew Isaac (6-9-3, 3.86, .896) can be expected to see a majority of time in net. Though that is the case, Szkodzinski was quick to point out that anything is possible.
“We have a senior in goal and he is experienced, which is something we should be able to rely on. But at the same time we have a freshman and a sophomore who are more than capable of pushing him.”
Offensively, the Vikings will be led by juniors Searl and Olynyk, who — along with sophomores LaFave (4-11-15) and Nick Jennette (8-13-21) — accounted for a significant portion of Lawrence’s scoring last season.
On the blue line, the Vikings are led by Peterson and return their top seven defensemen from last season’s team.
The Vikings have been a mediocre team for the past few seasons. While they do return a large portion of their impact players from last season and bring in a freshman class that Szkodzinski expects to contribute rather quickly, it’s clear that Lawrence’s road to improvement will begin with a new attitude.
For now, Lawrence isn’t going to run over anyone on talent alone, but if Szkodzinski is able to establish the positive and hard-working attitude he desires in his team, improvement is something that should come with time for the Vikings.
Most intriguing storyline: Will the infusion of new energy into the program be enough to raise Lawrence’s position in the standings?