Sporting WCA

The Sophomore Sensation

Nathaniel Sems

At the age of three, young Cole McWard watched intently each week while his older brother took ice skating lessons, longing desperately for his dad to allow him to skate along the edge of the rink. After several weeks of begging, his father finally consented and allowed Cole to skate on the perimeter of the ice, sparking the beginning of Cole’s love affair with hockey. Cole began playing organized hockey the next fall and it has been his favorite sport ever since.

“Hockey has always been my number one sport. I’ve tried soccer, baseball, football and lacrosse and although I was decent at a few of those, I could not love them like hockey,” said McWard.

Cole has come a long way since his first skate on the ice, becoming a prominent defender for the Westminster varsity hockey team, earning him the nickname “Sophomore Sensation”. After a solid freshman year, Cole has stepped up his game in his second high school season playing shut-down defense, allowing him to earn many valuable minutes of ice time for the Cats and leading them to the Marquette Preseason Tournament championship.

“I enjoy playing defense with Cole because he is a great offensive and defensive player. He is very athletic and is dedicated to giving his best on and off the ice because of how much he loves the game,” said Joe Schroeder, a fellow sophomore defender for the Wildcats.

McWard, who played lacrosse during his middle school years for Westminster, says the distinctness between hockey and any other sport, along with the skillset required in order for someone to excel at hockey, is one of the biggest reasons he loves it so much.

“It is my favorite sport because of how different and separated it is from other sports. Instead of on a field, it’s on ice. Instead of running in cleats, you skate on 1/8 of an inch wide piece of steel. And lastly, instead of having a high school varsity team be the way to get to college, you need to play on a separate club teams where you can travel all around and be recruited.”

When Cole is not playing for the Wildcats, he spends many nights traveling around the country playing for his club team, the U16 AAA Blues. This AAA Blues team is one of the top teams, not just in Missouri, but in all of the United States and yet McWard has excelled at the top level playing in all 17 games, earning a +13 rating, and contributing 6 points.

“Cole is one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with. He’s a great player, works hard extremely at what he loves to do making hockey look easy, and is always ready to play both physically and mentally,” said Jack Canfield, a teammate of  Cole on the U16 AAA Blues team

While Cole makes the difficult sport of hockey look easy to play, he admits that hockey is not always so simple.

“The hardest thing about playing hockey is being mentally and physically tough. On the physical side you are getting hit dozens of times a game, blocking a hard rubber puck going 75-85 miles per hour, and getting slashed with sticks all at the same time. But the harder part of the game is mental. If you dwell on past mistakes you make more, but if you can leave it behind you and refocus and it is possible to limit the big mistakes to just one.”

McWard does an excellent job of limiting his mistakes, making sure he does not allow anything too costly, but also contributes the offensive side for his team’s scoring six goals and four assists for the Wildcats, and adding one goal and five assists for his Blues’ team.

“My favorite part about hockey is making moves. I believe my strongest asset is my stick handling. I love to make moves around people to create offense for my team and I love

scoring,” McWard said enthusiastically.

Cole’s impressive stickhandling has wowed many spectators in the crowd and gained the attention of several colleges, including Michigan State and Michigan. The prospect of playing college hockey is something that excites Cole and is something he hopes to achieve

“An ultimate goal for me is to play division one college hockey and I hope and believe that is attainable. I would love to play in college, it appeals to me because of the opportunity to get a high quality education for free,” said McWard.

For Cole to be playing at such an elite level at this young of an age, the idea of playing division one hockey seems easily attainable and several of his teammates believe he could go even further and play on a much bigger stage.

“I truly believe he can get wherever he wants to go, maybe even the NHL, with the right mindset and work ethic,” said Canfield.

Keep an eye out for Cole in the future, but for now, you can still catch this sophomore sensation on the ice with the Wildcats.