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Stillman the centerpiece of offensive-focused hockey squad

Stillman+scored+25+goals+and+16+assists+last+season.
Stillman scored 25 goals and 16 assists last season.

Stillman scored 25 goals and 16 assists last season.

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Stillman scored 25 goals and 16 assists last season.

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Johnny Stillman figured playing college hockey would just be something he enjoyed on the side. Fast forward three years and club hockey has taken over Stillman’s college experience.

“There was no chance I thought it would take up this much of my time and I love it,” Stillman said. “I had no idea Marquette hockey would get to the point where it’s reached today.”

The 6-foot-5 forward from Massachusetts received interest from Division III level schools and thought about playing NCAA hockey. Since the schools wanted him to spend a year playing PG hockey or Juniors, Stillman passed on the offers to begin school immediately.

Playing club hockey has not slowed down Stillman’s success. He has been an integral part of the team’s offense since his freshman year. Last year Stillman lead the team in points with 25 goals and 16 assists. Head coach Will Jurgensen said Stillman has all the right attributes and is a natural goal scorer.

“He’s good at putting himself in the right spot,” Jurgensen said. “When you need a big goal, we want him on the ice.”

In recent years, the Marquette hockey team has been an offensive powerhouse. The team ranked in the top of its conference in goals last year with 176 overall. Stillman credits his success to playing with great players on the same line as him.

“They put me in great positions to score, and I think that’s the best part about our team because we love seeing each other succeed,” Stillman said.

Brian Kennedy, a junior forward who played on the same line as Stillman last year, said playing alongside the big forward is as easy as it can get.

“He’s really tall and can cover a lot of ground,” Kennedy said. “If he needs to get somewhere on the ice he will.”

Marquette’s depth is something the team takes pride in. It’s not just Stillman scoring goals. The team has four other players, including Kennedy, with 30 points or more. Jurgensen believes every line he puts out on the ice will score goals.

“Everyone has their role, our players know their role and its important they play to their strengths,” Jurgensen said.

Adam Benkovich, another senior forward on the team, considers the teams’ depth to be the main reason the Golden Eagles have been successful.

“For the most part we all know how to get it done to be successful as a team,” Benkovich said.

It has not always been smooth sailing for Stillman. Early on in his collegiate career, Jurgensen said Stillman would get frustrated easily if he had a bad shift. Often times that would result in another bad shift. The third year head coach said Stillman is one of the players he has constantly worked with.

“I’ve told him he always has to remain focused,” Jurgensen said. “Overall these last couple years he has certainly matured.”

Stillman recognizes what Jurgensen has done for him on and off the ice. He said his maturity level has risen because of what his coach has taught him.

“You know one bad shift doesn’t make a game,” Stillman said. “He taught me not to get too hard on myself, my maturity is all kudos to him.”

This season the team has a strong chance of reaching nationals for the first time in four years. Marquette returns most of the core players who fell one win short of that goal last year. Stillman said they have discussed the realistic possibility of making it to nationals and making some noise once they’re there.

“We’ve talked about this, we’ve seen our schedule and we should not lose a game this year,” Stillman said. “I hope this team goes to nationals and I think we have a really good shot of having success at nationals.”

Stillman and the club hockey team open their season this weekend with two away games against Wisconsin.

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