by Brooks Kirchheimer
(click on photo to enlarge)
It is another DU hockey season and another successful and potent freshman class is making themselves known not just to the Denver community, but to the hockey world. Peter Mannino, Paul Stastny, Chris Butler and now Rhett Rakhshani, Tyler Ruegesser, Brock Trotter and others are the next class of freshman to take the stage.
"This year they have really stepped up to the plate and taken a big role as freshman, so they have done well," said senior Steven Cook, who has seen year after year of freshman.
Red shirt freshman Brock Trotter is second in the WCHA in points amongst freshman with 32 and fifth overall. Ruegsegger is fifth with 27 points and Rakhshani seventh with 26 points. Along with junior Ryan Dingle the three freshman help make up the top four point getters for DU this season. A season that has Denver currently ranked No. 5 in division one hockey, third place in the WCHA and a 19-9-2 record overall.
"I think the biggest part has been the opportunity that the coach has given us. He has put us in some tight, tough situations and helped us build our confidence. Also the support from the upperclassmen has been really key," said California native Rakhshani.
Brian Gifford and Keith Seabrook with 11 points each, Brandon Vossberg with three points, Cody Brookwell with a point and Matt Glasser who has yet to be tallied in the scorer's book round out the 2006-2007 freshman class.
"Definitely offensively they have put up a lot of big points and they have played really hard," said Cook.
The seven freshmen have combined for 113 points this season on 37 goals and 76 assists out of the Pioneers 223 points on 81 goals and 142 assists. All this success occured while the seven players are making a transition from playing junior to college hockey.
"It's a completely different game when you actually go to college. Competition is way higher. Every weekend, the pressure is on you to win a game or two," said Rakhshani about his college experience. "It has been awesome; I have been having a great time; its pretty much everything I expected."
One of the challenges of being a freshman is not only being successful on the ice, but also in the classroom.
"Some nights you have to be up late doing homework, figuring out time management during the week and getting my rest and getting ready to play every single weekend," said Rakhshani about the challenges of being a student and athlete.
Seabrook has also gained confidence at the college level. "Everyone is a lot faster. Guys are a lot bigger and stronger, the more and more you play, the more you gain confidence; I feel I have adjusted and am playing successful," he said.
The success hasn't been without the help of the coaching staff and fellow older players.
"They [the coaching staff] are helping a lot. I go out with coach Laatsch every day before practice and work on my skating. It has been really good here, they wanted me to come in right away and play and play well, and I feel I struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season, but I am starting to come on now," said Seabrook.
Denver has had year after year of contributing and exciting freshman classes and none of this would be possible without the work and recruiting of the coaching staff. DU assistant coach Steve Miller is the head recruiting coordinator and spends hours on the phone and road recruiting some of the best young hockey players in the country, getting those young players to come to Denver and continue the success of the program and the freshman class.
"From their program and past success, I watched both times when they won NCAA's on television, and it has been the place I have wanted to go to every since I talked to them back at age 16," said Seabrook as to why he choose to attend DU.
Being a freshman can have its challenges, but year-in and year-out the DU freshman class has made it a routine of being an integral part of the squad.
"You are going to have ups and downs, you are going to have good games and bad games," said Seabrook.