Limback looking for consistency from young, talented hockey team

Courtesy Photo The 2017-18 Alpena High hockey team from left to right is: back: assistant coach Caleb Montroy, Alex Cosbitt, Noah VanDusen, Owen Limback, Cody Sumerix, Evan Kraenzlein, Lars MacArthur, Nate Cosbitt, Conner Allen and coach Chris Limback; front: Anthony Berg, Colby Plowman, Charlie Halleck, Sean Stevens, Jimmy Bolanowski, Cooper Black, Mitch Agius, Kyle VanDusen, Austin Ritter and Keegan Matthews.

Two words best describe the Alpena High hockey team this season: young and talented.

If the Wildcats can add consistent to that mix, they might be in for a successful season.

Alpena is off to a 2-1-2 start under coach Chris Limback who returns this season for his second stint behind the bench for the Green and White. Limback previously coached the Wildcats from 1994-2011.

The Wildcats have played well at times, but have also been inconsistent. With plenty of talent on a roster that includes eight juniors and five seniors, Limback is looking for his team to play consistent and smart hockey.

“It’s a strong team, but (a) young team, so it’s a matter of getting the young kids to play (better). The junior class is a class that I’ve had for many years, they’ve had success and the senior class is adapting to change as well,” Limback said. “It’s what I thought with a young team. You’ll see sometimes we’re great and at times we’re flat. Young teams are always inconsistent, so it’s getting them to play like they can and making every shift count.”

Alpena went 18-8-2 last season and fell in overtime in a regional final. The Wildcats return seven players from that team, including a great deal of offensive talent.

On offense, junior forward Kyle VanDusen returns after an injury-shortened sophomore campaign along with juniors Colby Plowman, Cody Sumerix and senior Lars MacArthur.

VanDusen has been on a tear offensively in the early going for the Wildcats. Through five games, he has nine goals and has recorded hat tricks two different times. Apart from VanDusen, Limback said the Wildcats will need to create more scoring depth as the season goes on.

VanDusen’s line mate, Plowman, has five goals this season and recorded 28 points last year, second on the team behind Nick Esch.

MacArthur has two goals this season and junior defenseman Owen Limback has three. Juniors Alex Cosbitt and Keegan Matthews have single tallies.

“Kyle VanDusen, he’s our goal scorer right now. When he’s on, that (first) line really flies,” Limback said. “Right now it’s about working on secondary scoring. That’s what we have to work on, getting depth with our scoring.”

Seniors Conner Allen and Noah VanDusen and junior Austin Ritter are also in Alpena’s offensive mix.

On defense, Owen Limback and senior Noah Cosbitt return to lead a young group of blue liners. Those in the defensive mix include freshmen Evan Kraenzlein and Mitch Agius, sophomores Charlie Halleck and Sean Stevens and junior Anthony Berg, who returns from last season.

In net, junior Cooper Black and sophomore Jimmy Bolanowski have split time and played well. Bolanowski recently recorded his first varsity shutout in a 5-0 win over the Traverse Bay Reps.

“They really work well together and have been pushing each other,” Limback said.

Alpena has played well early in the year, but the Wildcats will be tested several times before the month ends. The Wildcats play in a showcase in Gaylord this weekend and will play Flint Powers and Chelsea. Alpena will also host its Blue Line Tournament later this month before hosting Escanaba just before New Years.

Limback didn’t shy away from playing tough competition in his first stint with the Wildcats and though he has high hopes for his team, he knows tough competition will bring out the best in Alpena.

“The goal is to be as good as you can be. My goal is to be a top-10 team and you do that you have to beat the best,” Limback said. “We’re starting to grow as a team (and realizing that) everyone’s got to work together. We’re not good enough where one guy can do his own thing.”