Last Wednesday, the Wasps were beaten 13-0 by Cache Valley Independent—a much more established team. It was the fourth game on the schedule for Wasatch and it left them still searching for a win.
Head coach R.C. Shuflin, assistant coach Volker Ritzinger and team trustee James Soderborg, despite the double-digit losses, still manage to leave the arena with smiles on their faces. They have built solid youth and high school hockey teams before and they believe they are on their way to doing the same with Wasatch.
“It’s a work in progress,” says an optimistic Shuflin. “We knew there’d be some growing pains, but the kids’ heads are up and they’re working hard and getting better each day.”
In the Wasp’s opening game loss to Northern Utah Independent back on September 25, it was evident the new team needed more ice time to get competitive. They were outplayed that night by a much larger and faster hockey team losing 13-1.
The outcome of the next two games against the Salt Lake Stars and Davis County Independent was basically the same, losing 11-2 and 16-0 respectively, but something was happening within the team. They were learning to play together as a unit and getting some good experience—and getting it pretty fast.
“The first part of our schedule—these first four, was definitely tough,” added Shuflin. “That will explain a lot of the games so far. But our goal is, and always has been, to get these kids to play some good hockey and to become a competitive team. It takes time, but it’s happening.”
Wasatch began the first and third periods against Cache Valley stout on defense, not allowing goals until the halfway point or later. The Wasps have been getting much improved play on the backline and more players are getting involved and comfortable on the ice. If the defense continues to improve it is only a matter of time before some of the more experienced skaters like Colton Shuflin and Cody Ritzinger will be able to clear the puck and apply some pressure on the offensive end.
Wasatch has also been getting excellent play from goalkeeper, Mason Hascall. Even though an average of a dozen goals given up does not look impressive on the scoreboard, the sophomore has been defending five to six times as many shots. Against DCI, Haskell recorded more than 60 saves.
“We knew coming in that we had our work cut out for us,” said Hascall. “We’ve gotten so much better already though. We just believe in our coaches and know that it takes a little time to bond. But we’re getting a better idea of where we are and what we can do with each game.”
With nine more games scheduled, and the possibility of more being added, there is plenty of time for the Wasps to hit their stride and to show a supportive prep sports community that there is a good hockey team in town.
Wasatch returns to the ice tonight against the Utah County Independent Warriors. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 at the Park City Ice Arena.