Second-year Lake hockey coach Craig Horvath basically started from scratch last season.
His inaugural Lake squad, young and inexperienced, finished the 2007-08 season with a 2-14 record, including 1-9 in the Northwest Hockey Conference's Blue Division.
"I went to the basics last year," Horvath said. "I've been coaching my kids since they were real small. I went back to simple skating and instructional drills. This year I don't have to. We can turn the corner and do different things because they know that stuff now.
"The freshmen have a year of experience and it really showed last weekend. We were down two goals going into the third period on Friday and got four goals in the third period. That was a big confidence booster for the kids."
Lake hasn't started its regular season yet, but it had two scrimmages against Ottawa Hills. Lake beat the Green Bears 6-4 last Friday and tied the Bears 3-3 on Saturday.
"We looked much better than I thought we would," Horvath said. "That really surprised me.
We looked really good. We don't have kids who have been playing for 15 years. If you're a freshman and you want to play, OK, I'll teach you."
The Lake hockey program is a club sport and is not affiliated with Lake High School. The team's players all come from Lake Township. Horvath said he took over as coach last season because "I don't want to see it die for the kids in our area."
Lake has had hockey for nearly 40 years, according to Horvath.
"That's why nobody wants to let it die," he said. "That's why I stepped up. My son, Tony, is there, but this (coaching gig) could go beyond my son. It's probably one of the oldest hockey teams around. I'm a hockey fan and I also coach my younger son, Dominick, who is a seventh-grader at Lake. I coach it regardless of my kids because it's just something I enjoy doing. It keeps kids out of trouble and I like giving back."
All but one of Lake's 14 players was on the squad a year ago.
"I'd like to have a little more, but that's not bad," Horvath said. "I understand Start's down to eight or nine kids. Schools like ours, our best kid in the Lake district goes to St. Francis, as a freshman. You lose players to the Catholic schools and I can't blame the kids. We're not a varsity sport."
Some of Lake's top players include sophomore center Duncan Vail, junior center Gabe Pinciotti and sophomore defenseman R.J. Schultz.
"Duncan is probably the kid who has the most hockey experience," Horvath said. "He's a pretty speedy kid, an athletic kid. After last year and what I've seen this year, he's grown up and become better and stronger.
"Pinciotti is just a gritty, hard-nosed player who gives 100 percent every time he's on the ice. He's a hard worker. Schultz has been playing travel hockey for years and he's one of our captains, and he's one of the most experienced kids on the team."
Sophomore goalie Tony Horvath and junior defenseman Louis Szilagyi are also keys to this year's team.
Tony Horvath "saw a lot of shots last year and did pretty well," coach Horvath said. "He kept us in a lot of games. Louis is another hard worker. He runs track and he's another kid who has played travel hockey throughout his life."
Coach Horvath said the key to Lake's season is for the players to keep working hard and build on the effort they had against Ottawa Hills.
"How hard they have worked showed the other night against Ottawa Hills," Horvath said. "When I took the team over, they hadn't had a win in two years, so we're starting to get experience on how to win. The key is to keep building on last weekend, and I think we'll be fine."