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Monday, March 8, 2021

Blades of glory

Senior forward Andrew Liebel advances the puck in the first game of Western's two game set against University of Idaho, Friday, Oct. 7. // Photo by Morgan Stilp-Allen.
Senior forward Andrew Liebel advances the puck in the first game of Western’s two-game set against University of Idaho, Friday, Oct. 7. // Photo by Morgan Stilp-Allen.

Senior Billy Holbrook serves as club president  and team captain, of the Western hockey team. As club president, he is in charge of most of the team’s operations, including travel accommodations.

“If something’s going through the team, my name is on it,” Holbrook said.

The team has started its 2016-17 season off with a perfect 6-0 record. Despite its hot start, Holbrook, who plays the forward position, said he thinks many students are unaware of the team.

“We’re out there [on campus] every Friday before home games passing out fliers,” Holbrook said.

The Western hockey club started in 1980 and has competed in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II for the past year. From 2013 to 2015 the Vikings competed in the National Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA). In 2013 the Vikings won the NCHA national championship when they defeated Le Moyne College 2-1 to hoist the Founders Cup.

Western relies on a mixture of veterans and rookies to improve on last season, which it finished with a record of 9-9-1. First-year players, like freshman forward Alex Stoneham, have found success early in the season. Stoneham credits some of his success to the veteran players.

“We have a great group of veterans here. They’ve done a great job of welcoming the rookies and young guys into the group.”

Alex Stoneham

“We have a great group of veterans here,” Stoneham said. “They’ve done a great job of welcoming the rookies and young guys into the group.”

Though the Western hockey team is a student-run organization, its coaching duties are handled by first-year head coach Larry MacDonald and assistant coach Cole Moore. MacDonald brings over 17 years of experience to the team.

“He’s been a great asset so far,” Holbrook said. “Coach MacDonald brings a lot of experience.”

The starting goaltender for Western is Robert MacDonald, a junior transfer from Minnesota. At St. Olaf College he competed in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at the NCAA Division III level. Robert MacDonald is the son of head coach Larry MacDonald.

“It’s been an adjustment,” Robert MacDonald said. “I’ve been really impressed with how strong the competition is, and how strong the team has been.”

Western began its 2016-17 season in Spokane with two victories over the University of Idaho. The team then rolled through a four-game home stretch in which it handed two losses to both Portland State University and University of Idaho, improving to 6-0 on the season.

Despite a perfect record, Holbrook said he is concerned by slow starts to games, a theme throughout the early part of the season.

“We haven’t had the best starts so far this year,” Holbrook said. “We have come out slow in most of our games.”

Western will play its next six games on the road, beginning with three games in three nights starting on Oct. 14 in Bozeman, Montana. The Vikings will face Montana State on Friday and Saturday, then finish up against Montana Tech in Butte, Montana on Sunday.

The Vikings won’t play at home until Oct. 29, when they host the Hockey Saves Exhibition Game at the Bellingham Sportsplex.

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