By Megan Dierberger – [email protected]
That’s how Head Coach Doug Schueller would describe the Johnnies’ 2016-17 hockey season in one word.
“We have one of the deepest teams that I have had in my nine years as head coach here at St. John’s—there was just something missing,” Schueller said. “We have a great team and things just didn’t go our way this year.”
The St. John’s hockey team ended their regular season against Augsburg on Feb. 18 with an overall record of 12-10-3 and a 7-7-2 record in the MIAC.
They just barely missed the cut to advance to the playoffs, finishing in sixth place in the MIAC—one place behind a playoff berth.
The Johnnies started off strong with a 3-0 record in the beginning of the season. They were able to compete with some of the top teams in the nation, such as Eau-Claire, St. Thomas and Augsburg.
“This season was a bit of a roller coaster,” senior goalie Tyler Nelson said.
Nelson finished fourth in the conference in win percentage (.567) and fifth in the conference in saves (432), save percentage (.921) and goals-against average (2.56).
“You simply can’t take a single night off in the MIAC otherwise it might hurt you in the end,” Nelson said. “The best team can get beat by the worst team in this conference.”
The team was plagued with many injuries including the loss of their leading scorer sophomore Matt Colford to a season-ending knee injury early in the season. Eight players were concussed and two of those players suffered a second concussion.
“But that is no excuse,” junior forward Sam Valerius said. “The MIAC is always a close race with many good teams that could win on any given night and that was the case again this year.”
Valerius led the Johnnies in scoring with a total of 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) this season. He is ranked 13th (tied with five others) in the MIAC for goals and is 13th (tied with one other) in points.
For the team, there is no question the Johnnies can make a comeback next season. They are ready for making improvements.
“I feel that we need to focus more on skills and development in practice versus systems,” Schueller said. “I also feel that we need to pay more attention to detail and, as coaches, we need to do a better job of holding players accountable when they lose that focus.”
But with the end of the season comes the inevitable end of the seniors’ hockey careers.
“There is no doubt I’ll miss playing hockey each day,” Nelson said. “I definitely will miss going to the rink every day and being around such a unique group of guys.”
Valerius praised the work of those graduating.
“We had great leadership and great seniors who did so much for this program, and we will them miss immensely.”
There are six graduating seniors, so the majority of this year’s team will come back next year as they hope to return better than ever.