Hockey club brings new players, energy

Dominic Renzetti, Assistant Sports Editor

This year’s Eastern club hockey team is a lot different than the last. The Panthers have a bigger roster, a lot of new players and a new approach to the 2014-15 season.

“This year, we had a big rookie class that came in, a lot of new players,” senior Glenn Oskverek said. “I think they’re different skill sets and diversity, they make the team, a whole, a lot better than they were last year.

Last year, Oskverek was one of the new guys, competing in his first year as a Panther after transferring from Western Illinois. Now, he’s one of the team’s four seniors on a rebuilt roster with 10 freshmen.

“We got all these rookies that are coming in and I think what they have is great to bring to the table,” Oskverek said.

They’re going to need to bring it for this weekend’s season opening series against No. 6 ranked Missouri State Ice Bears. The first puck drop of the season is 7 p.m. Friday at Mediacom Ice Park in Springfield, Mo. The second game is at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“They’re always known as a really good squad,” he said. “We know this year that they’re ranked and we’re coming into our first game here with a bunch of new players.”

The Ice Bears swept the Panthers in their season series last year, but this year Oskverek is just hoping for the young Panther team to take something positive away from the weekend.

“We’re hoping for the best,” he said. “I think we’re going to pull off a lot better than we did last year and we’ll see where we go from there.”

This year Oskverek said the Panthers are taking practice more seriously and have been paying more attention to off-the ice training and workouts in the gym. Another change for the team this season is the man in goal.

Junior Zach Peifer will be the one taking over at goalie for the 2014 season. Peifer saw limited playing time last year as the backup to Andrew Teske, the team’s veteran starting goalie. Peifer also dealt with a nagging knee injury that kept him on a Panther roster already depleted by injuries.

“We had our first preseason game against a junior team and Peifer, he played outstanding,” Oskverek said. “He was able to go under the wing of Teske, for a little while and Teske kind of guided him throughout the year definitely helped him out there.”

Teske remains on the roster, but this year as a forward rather than a goalie. The move has worked out well so far for the Lemont native, who scored a goal in the team’s preseason game against the St. Louis Frontenacs.

Even with the losses of seniors Chris Gallagher and Andrew Maronich, Oskverek said the Panthers are still looking good on offense with the likes of returners Andy Isalaco and Ryan Howard. Isalaco, a sophomore from Tinley Park, had the Panthers’ first goal in their 4-2 preseason loss to St. Louis.

Following this weekend’s series, the Panthers will have a home-road series with rival University of Illinois, with one game Sept. 19 at the David S. Palmer Arena in Danville and a second at the Illinois Ice Arena in Champaign.


Dominic Renzetti can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].