The quickest way to get anywhere in sports is to win.
It’s a harsh truism that Frank Slubowski knows all too well – and he’s dedicated to the cause for his senior year at Western Michigan University (WMU) as the Broncos’ hockey netminder.
“I want to win,” he said on the weekend.
“That’s the biggest thing for me. I want to get another championship – not just [in the] conference, but hopefully nationally. If we have that success as a team, I think individually the contracts will come and the success, individually, will come.”
Slubowski will try and beckon the National Hockey League (NHL) to knock on his door, and with the added exposure of WMU being added to Division 1’s National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) last year, the goalie will try and earn his contract in front of nightly professional scouts.
The highest level of hockey in America aside from the NHL and its farm league, the American Hockey League, Division 1 college hockey demands the best of its members every night and Slubowski has gotten more used to the different aspects the NCHC brings.
“The conference has a lot of skill and it’s pretty deep and the travel’s a little more hectic, but it’s a competitive league and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
In a media preseason poll, the pundits proclaimed North Dakota as the favourite to win the conference. Despite being their rivals, the Broncos’ Slubowski likes to play there.
“Their atmosphere [in the arena] is pretty wild. It’s always sold out and it has lots of energy. It’s crazy,” said the keeper.
Slubowski is coming off a career low year in terms of team stats with his wins and goals against average (GAA). He had eight wins compared to his two previous seasons when he collected 17 and 19, though he did play only 20 matches, compared to 32 and 38 in 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively. His GAA was 2.55 while he previously had 2.00 and 2.03 in his first two years.
However, his save percentage (SV%), a better reflection of individual play was the second-highest out of his three years – a .915, just .003 short of his .918 career high in 2012-13.
To correct his mistakes, he went back to the basics.
“I worked a lot with my goalie coach on Vancouver Island [over the summer] and we worked a lot on just simplifying my game. I think last year I was trying to do too much and that took away from my game. But this year, I worked on controlled movements and just simplifying it – doing the basics,” he said.
“It’s funny, watching the pro guys – they don’t do anything spectacular, they just do the basics really well and that’s what I learned playing with [them].”
Slubowski came back to Prince Rupert for a couple of weeks over the summer and went fishing.
“It was actually nice when I was there, so I enjoyed the weather,” he said.
As for school, the goaltender is finding senior year to be a good fit.
“It’s more challenging my freshman year [in terms of] balancing the hockey-school schedule. As a senior, you’ve kind of figured it out and it’s way easier.”
The Broncos play Canisius College in Buffalo this weekend before hosting Nebraska-Omaha in their conference home opener next Friday and Saturday.
Last year, the Broncos finished in fourth place in the NCHC after losing to Denver in the semi-finals.