For two years in a row, Pioneer Men’s Ice Hockey has celebrated its victory at the SEC Championships. This year, as they progress through the remainder of their season, they aim to achieve a “three-peat” SEC championship and regional championship. Regarding the team’s performance this season, senior forward and captain Craig “CJ” Bradburn says that “it’s been very good, we’re 12-5-1 right now so that’s been going well.”
This season, the team sports nine veteran seniors. When first entering the process of daily practices and games, there were some struggles in figuring out who would play where. “[We had] trouble with getting the lines together and seeing who works well together,” said sophomore forward Samuel Chapman.
Due to some strong efforts in building team chemistry, “[we’ve had] a lot of jokes and a lot of laughs,” said Bradburn. “We’ve got a lot of interesting characters,” added Phillips.
Phillips is optimistic about the remainder of the season because “this season [the team] actually started out really well.” He attributes a lot of this success to “trust” among the teammates. Chapman shares his sentiments and says that the “second half [of the season] we’ll be doing pretty good, hopefully.”
A road trip up north to play against Marquette and Hancock high schools solidified bonds within the team. “Going up north was a great bonding experience because we were on a bus together eight hours on the way there and eight hours on the way back,” said Bradburn. “We were with each other 24/7.” Bradburn added that team breakfasts and dinners added to the positive atmosphere on the trip.
The biggest competition and rivalry this year is with Saline High School. “They were our only rough game so far,” said Bradburn. Phillips agreed with Bradburn, explaining that Pioneer and Saline have “always been back and forth with games…we’ve just always had that sense of rivalry especially because we share the same rink.”
As the team approaches the last month of their regular season, Bradburn is optimistic about their potential to reach regionals, and later, states. “We have a shot at the same spot as last year,” said Chapman. Phillips agrees that the upcoming playoffs will bring “an interesting year” given that Huron is no longer in the same league as Pioneer and Wyandotte has replaced them.
When the season ends, Bradburn expects the team may need some rebuilding because of the number of seniors graduating, including the current goalie, Karl Gage. “We’re going to be losing like eight seniors and our goalie so next season could be a struggle for them, but our coach is unreal so I feel like we’ll make something happen,” Bradburn said.