New year, new team


Laura Veldhof

The Panther hockey team celebrates a recent win with members of the Black Hole.

Teagan Johnson

  The West Ottawa Panthers traveled to Griff’s Georgetown Ice Arena to take on the Jenison Wildcats.  Both teams were experiencing disappointing starts to their seasons; however, with a win, the Panthers could potentially get on a roll.  West Ottawa started the game off the way they had hoped with 2 quick goals by Tyler Noblett.  Throughout the game, both Andrew Piehl and Cooper Nienhuis would tally a goal to extend the Panther’s lead to 4 goals.  Jenison eventually got on the board, however, the Panthers ended with a 4-1 win.

   Approaching 2023, West Ottawa Hockey was in a major slump.  Going into the new year, the team had a record of 2-6-1; however, the new year meant a fresh start.

   January 4, 2023

   West Ottawa opened up the new year with a significantly important game against their conference rival, the Grandville Bulldogs.  Although the Panthers were in the midst of a slump, they believed that with the new year, they would be able to get going.  The Panthers struck first jumping out to a 1-0 lead with 3:27 to go in the first period.  This lead would last until 11:49 in the second period when Grandville scored a game tying goal.  The two teams would continue to exchange goals until Grandville would eventually pull away, scoring 3 goals in the third period to win 6-3.

   Following the Panther’s harsh loss to the Bulldogs, West Ottawa would figure out the formula to be successful.

   Starting to believe in one another as well as understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses are some of the reasons that have led to West Ottawa’s recent success.

   At the start of the season, players didn’t have nearly as much belief in one another as they do now.  Part of the problem had to do with not playing together for very long.  Sr. Kolin VanFossan said, “I think a ton of belief has led to our success.  Having belief in ourselves and teammates has allowed us to be more focused for games and work better together.”  An in-game example is when Sr. Cooper Nienhuis delivered a dime of a pass to Soph. Tyler Noblett for the game’s first goal against Rockford on January 19.  Earlier in the season, Nienhuis may not have decided to deliver a pass to Noblett because of his limited knowledge of Noblett’s scoring abilities, but due to the increased confidence in one another, this play was executed to perfection.

   Early on, not everyone knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Typically, teammates learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses after a few practices and games.  Sr. Logan Wesolek said, “We’re getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which propels our game into success.”  By understanding each other’s positives and flaws, teammates and coaches are able to help out by designing specific drills intended to improve one’s flaws while designing other drills to continue to improve one’s positives.  Getting to know each other’s benefits and imperfections has led to every player improving their skills significantly which shows with the successful results on the ice as of late.

   Currently, the Panthers possess an overall record of 10-14-1, however, since the loss to Grandville to begin the year, the Panthers have an 8-7 record.  On Friday, February 24th, West Ottawa will take a trip over to Patterson Ice Arena to take on Jenison for the first round of the playoffs.  If the Panthers end up winning this game, they will go on to play the Mona Shores Sailors.