Changing the trend: Sophomore forward is part of Austin’s improvement on the ice

Published 6:20 pm Monday, January 9, 2023

The Austin boys hockey team has had a lot of long nights and rough outcomes on the ice in recent years, but things are slowly turning in their favor.

Austin sophomore Gahvin Schaefer became part of that positive change when he netted a hat trick in Austin’s first win over a Big Nine foe in four years when the Packers beat Red Wing 4-1 last week. That win, along with some close scores in their other games, has a program that had won just two games in its previous three seasons, thinking it can compete.

Gahvin is in his second year with the varsity program, but he’s been around hockey as long as he can remember. His dad Troy Schaefer is the team’s head coach and Gahvin plays the sport year round.

He has high hopes for the future of the Packers.

“We’ve got to come together as a team. Our leaders do an amazing job,” Gahvin said. “If it wasn’t for Isaac Stromlund, I wouldn’t have gotten that hat trick. He sacrifices his game and he does an amazing job. We have great leaders. My teammates help out a lot and it’s not just a one person effort. It’s a whole team effort.”

Troy has coached the current sophomore class since they started playing hockey and he sees a lot of potential in that group to help boost a program that has had a lot of struggles over the past few years. The Packers (1-6 overall) are being outscored 4.4-2.4 goals per game this season, which is a big improvement from last year, when the Packers allowed eight or more goals in 12 of their 22 games and their lone win came against Worthington.

“This sophomore group has gotten bigger and they grew up,” Troy said. “They do a lot of stuff outside the rink and that’s big. Our goaltending has been good with Ethan Knox and Daran Plunkett. It’s been fun. If we can get a couple of more wins, it’s going to be huge. We’ve got to figure out how to win.”

The Packers are showing signs of improvement this season and Gahvin isn’t forgetting when things were looking very bleak a few years ago. Back in March of 2021, the Packers were down to just seven skaters in a loss to Albert Lea, where words and hits on the ice led to several ejections and suspensions to both teams. AL won that game 15-0.

These Packers are looking to avoid games like that and they’re putting in the work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“It’s like our assistant coach (Troy) Holtz said, we’re a grinding town, and we’re nothing pretty. We’ve got to stay out of stuff like (what happened against AL in 2021) and we don’t want to be an organization like that,” Gahvin said. “There’s a couple of more games on our schedule that we’re thinking that we’re going to win.”

Gahvin has six goals and three assists in seven games for the Packers. Troy credited his son’s success to the effort he has put in over the last year.

“There was time when (Gahvin) lost his way, but he kind of straightened himself and started working out and doing what he needed to do to become a decent hockey player,” Troy said. “He’s out there now with some guys who have helped him out like Grady Carney and Stromlund.”

Gahvin rarely goes through a day where he doesn’t get on the ice or watch an NHL or Austin Bruin game. He’s been tied to the sport for as long as he can remember and he’s always had his dad at his side to guide him.

“My dad’s on me a lot more outside of hockey too,” Gahvin said. “It’s pretty difficult sometimes when he’s always on me, but it helps me get better. I’ve played for him my whole life.”

The Packers will host Waseca at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.