Hockey looks to make a splash as new era begins

On both the ice and in the box, there will be significant changes for the FHC hockey team this season. After going 22-5 a year ago, head coach Kevin Zaschack decided to hang up his hat and step down as head coach. This was a surprise to many FHC hockey fans, but Zaschack made the decision to step away from the game at a younger age largely so he could focus on spending time with his family.

This led to the hiring of new head coach Bill McSween. McSween was previously the assistant coach of Davenport University after a long and successful playing career. McSween attended Redford Unified High School where he played three years, including a dominant senior year in which he was named captain of the team and led Redford to a league championship.

“After high school, I had a two-year stint playing in the NAHL/AWHL for four teams.  In my first year of junior hockey, my team won an AWHL championship in Bozeman, MT, and we competed against the other Junior A leagues in the National Championships.  After playing Junior A, I ended up at Davenport University where we won two National Championships. My senior year, I was selected to represent my country in Europe for an ACHA All-Star team.”

Also, the Rangers welcome many new assistant coaches, one of which is Tate Ferris. Ferris is a very familiar face for some Rangers as he is also the goalie coach for boys varsity lacrosse. The other new faces to the program are coaches Matt Klaudis, Will Snyder, and Chris Summers, who are all well-minded veteran coaches that should help establish the foundation of the new era Rangers.

Defensively, the Rangers do not have many new faces. The team returns juniors Josh Smith, Connor DeFouw, and Lucas Jefferys, all of which were three players that earned plenty of playing time as the season progressed. Seniors Collin Ward and Jack Fitzgibbon will also add to the veteran leadership on the defensive end.

“I think it is very important [to have a veteran-led defense] because they can show the rookies and the younger players on the team how certain things can be done in certain situations,” Lucas said. “Also, myself once being a rookie and one of the younger players on the team, the older players are people that you look up to, and they push you to make yourself a better player.”

The Rangers open the season tonight with a match-up against Lowell-Caledonia. They then move on to a big weekend with three games in two days. The boys will travel this Saturday to both Mona Shores and Big Rapids before ending their weekend with another game against Mona on Sunday. Other non-conference games include away games at Byron Center and Hartland.

Offensively, the expectations are high for the Rangers.

“We are going to be a tough team to play against.  Our plan offensively is to get pucks to the net with traffic,” McSween said. “We have good depth up front led by our captain [senior] Jacob Campbell.  We are going to need all of our lines to play hard defensively and chip in offensively.”

As mentioned, Jacob will be the captain of the Rangers this season. Jacob is coming off of a very serious arm injury that could have potentially ended his career, so just to have him on the ice is a blessing for the team.

Seniors Xavier Ott and Jacob along with sophomore Sammy Mielock will look to provide for the offense this season as three of these returning forwards were very beneficial while being on the ice last season. The offense does lose many key players from a year ago such as Cole Beaufait and Ryan Jeffreys, both of which graduated. High school senior Mason Kelly also is departing from the team as he has made the choice to focus on his AAA career and continue to make a push for the pros. Even though these players were huge factors in the Rangers’ success and efficiency on the offensive end, this does not stop junior Tyler Weaver from a keen mindset on how to produce.

“With a new coach coming in our gameplay has changed from last year,” Tyler said. “We have our goal scorers spread out from line to line to keep the offense rolling.”

The Rangers’ conference schedule this season contains many familiar faces, including an early match-up with crosstown rival East Grand Rapids. After this, the Rangers will go on to face GR Christian, another go-around with EGR, and back-to-back games against arch-rival Forest Hills Northern/Eastern. The Rangers will then end the season with Lowell/Caledonia, GR Catholic Central, G.R Christian again, and the Rockford Rams.

“My expectations for the team will always be the same.  We will work hard every practice and game, we will battle through adversity as a team, we will represent our families and community with integrity and honor, and we will be confident in ourselves and our teammates” McSween said. The expectations will be high as this is one of the more senior/junior led teams in the conference. Senior goaltender Gavin Brady will likely continue to be the starter in net and hope to bring a State Championship ring home.