Hockey team shows new focus with impressive effort that nets home tourney title
Now in his third year as coach of the Grafton/Port Washington/Milwaukee Luther-an hockey team, Tony Rieck believes his players are starting to understand what it takes to be winners.
So much so that three games into this season, the Ice Hawks are already halfway to last year’s win total.
In a season-opening tournament last weekend, Grafton/Port emerged with top honors by defeating the McDonnell co-op team, 3-2, in overtime; tying
Viroqua, 4-4; and destroying Sauk Prairie, 8-1.
The Hawks team that finished 4-18-1 last season is long gone.
“The kids, three years in, are getting a grasp,” Rieck said.
After having two seniors in his first year and three in his second, Rieck now has six, along with seven juniors.
“They bought into it. These kids are on the same page I’m at. They’re rolling,” Rieck said.
“They’re excited to show up to the rink. They’re excited to practice.”
Workouts begin at 4:30 a.m., and nobody has missed a practice yet, he said.
“The mental toughness, the heart to come out and play, you can see it in these kids’ eyes,” he said.
“You could see it when we started camp this year. They had a goal in mind. They want to win some hockey games.”
Rieck’s front line includes Grafton senior Travis Sette, Port Washington sophomore Adam Schoenfeld and Grafton sophomore Tim Grams.
“They can play defense. They can play offense. They’re working hard, harder than I’d seen all last year,” Rieck said.
On the second line, Port junior Steve Wick and Grafton senior Zach Wilson are playing well. Rieck said Wick has come back with a great attitude and much more coordinated — “above and beyond last year.”
Defensively, Rieck has Lutheran senior Scott Benson and his younger brother, freshman Joe, Grafton sophomore Gavin Lancello and Lutheran senior Tyler Sass, who switched from forward this season.
Port junior Chase Hollander returns as the starting goalkeeper.
“It’s great to have Chase back in the net,” Rieck said.
The hard work and attitude are already paying off.
In last Friday’s season opener, the Hawks took a 2-0 lead into the third period only to have McDonnell score twice and force overtime.
But in the extra period, Sette ended it. He caught a break, picked the puck off a defenseman, went down and scored.
Sette scored two goals in the game, and Wick had one. Schoenfeld and Scott Benson each had an assist. Hollander made 41 saves.
On Saturday, the Hawks took a 4-1 lead on Viroqua, but a five-minute lull ended with a tie game. In overtime, the Hawks fired away, letting 13 shots fly, but the Viroqua goalie “came up with about seven really good saves,” Rieck said.
Sette again scored twice. Sass and junior forward Shelby McPhail each netted one goal. Grams, Schoenfeld and Joe Benson each had one assist. Sophomore goalie Dakota Kwansy had 36 saves.
Against Sauk Prairie in the tournament’s title game, there would be no comeback by the Hawks’ foe. They jumped to a big lead and never looked back, dominating all phases of the game.
“Our kids just focused in. We took care of the little things,” Rieck said.
Wilson had a hat trick, and Wick scored twice. Sette, Schoenfeld and Joe Benson each scored once. Hollander made 20 saves.
It was pleasing as a coach, Rieck said, to tell the kids what to do and how to do it, then see them execute.
Rieck said the early success is crucial, especially after several losing streaks last season.
One of the Hawks’ big goals this season is to beat Homestead, Germantown or Cedarburg, something they have never done.
“We’re going to knock off one of those teams this year,” Rieck said.
Rieck has a personal goal in mind as well. He is 11 wins short of 100 in his Wisconsin high school coaching career.
Eleven wins would be the most for a season in the Hawks’ history, and Rieck thinks that record could be shattered.
“I don’t doubt the fact we could win 15 games this year,” he said. “They’re on the same page. We know what we want to do, where we want to get to.”
This week, Grafton/Port played Greendale on Tuesday and will travel to the Kern Center on Saturday for a 7 p.m. game against the Whitefish Bay/Nicolet co-op team.
DEFENSEMAN Gavin Lancello (5) battled a McDonnell player for possession of the puck during the Grafton/Port Washington/Milwaukee Lutheran hockey team’s season-opening win last Friday. Photo by Sam Arendt