APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) —It’s been quite the road for the Neenah, Hortonville, and Menasha co-op hockey team in the past year. Not only did the Rockets make it to the boys state championship game in Madison for the first time in program history in March of 2019, the team found a new home at the Community First Champion Center this season.
“This is a big step up from our last digs at Tri-County. We love that place and it has a lot of character, but this year we came over to the Champion Center and it’s been awesome,” said Rockets head coach Jeff Lindemann. “Great new locker room, great facility with two sheets of ice. Sometimes the sun is out when you’re practicing and it comes through the windows, so it’s beautiful here.”
Center Ethan Long added, “It’s very nice. It was interesting to move in and try to figure everything out with all the nuances, of packing for games and coming back and forth. The locker room at Tri-County was nice, but we didn’t have showers so we had to run across the rink, and now we have her own showers. It’s a step up.”
In the Rockets run to the state title game last season, NHM not only won the Badgerland conference title, they earned a #1 seed in their sectional and advanced to the state quarterfinals with a 4-0 win over Notre Dame Academy. This season the tables will be turned a bit and the team know they had a senior heavy roster a year ago.
“Last year going to state we had a bunch of graduating seniors, so this team as a whole it’s a new fresh start,” said Goalie Jake Mork. “We have a bunch of new talent, a bunch of new skill players that are coming to the ice and all we have to do every single practice is put the little things into it.”
Lindemann added, “We graduated 11 kids last year from the team, so we’ve got a much younger team but have a senior goaltender that can take us a long ways. But we’re still learning so we’re pretty excited to be where were at right now. I think that our best hockey had yet to be played.”
NHM has three non-conference games to finish the regular season before the playoffs begin and the players on the roster know it won’t be easy, but feel they are confident and improving on the ice at the right time.
“I think it just comes down to doing all the little things, just working hard at practice, just having fun, we’re just looking to get hot right now and roll with it, roll with our momentum hopefully,” said Forward Drew Sutton. “We know we will face some good teams here at the end of the season to get us ready for the playoffs. The road to getting to state is tough and we know we’ve got to go through a couple really good teams, so we’re looking forward to it.
Defenseman Luke Elkin added, “We’ve just got to find ways to score lately. It hasn’t been going our way too much but we’ve just got to refocus and put our mind to it and make sure we find ways to score. We just have to trust in each other and we’re doing is what’s necessary to accomplish and meet our goals and that’s make it to state.”