HARTLAND, MI - Zak Bodziak grew up skating out of the Hartland Sports Center and can't wait to get back on the ice in his hometown.
Bodziak, a signed tender of the Hartland Hounds, graduated from HartlandHigh School in 2011 and played four years for the hockey team there. After taking the college route last year at Davenport University, where Bodziak played club hockey, the 19-year-old forward is looking forward to playing for the Hounds in the brand-new Midwest Junior Hockey League this fall.
"When I heard there was going to be a junior team in Hartland, I was immediately excited," said Bodziak. "I always wanted to play juniors, but right out of high school, I went to college, which wasn't a bad choice, but now that this opportunity in Hartland has come up, I think it's an excellent situation for people in Hartland and the area to come out and see a new level of hockey.
"A lot of people only watch hockey up to Bantams and Midgets and even high school, but Junior A hockey is a very high level and I think we'll have a very exciting team this season."
Playing for Hounds coach Randy Montrose, who guided Howell High Schoolto two straight state finals appearances in 2009 and 2010 and moved numerous players to junior and college hockey, was also an enticing factor for Bodziak to see what the MWJHL is all about.
"I definitely have a lot of respect for Randy and I think his track record speaks for itself," Bodziak said. "He's a guy that from what I've seen and heard is someone I can trust and someone who understands the game at this level. I played against his Howell teams in high school and he always had those guys ready to go. I'm excited to get the season going."
Having already played a year of college hockey, Bodziak is hoping to use the Hounds as a spring-board to future college hockey opportunities.
"My ultimate goal, much like everyone else's goal, is to go to school and play competitive hockey," explained Bodziak. "I'm not looking for any huge offers to come my way this season. I just want to go out and play hockey, play my game, and if I play the way I know I can play and put up some decent numbers, I think the college offers will take care of themselves."
Aside from points this coming season, Bodziak wants to be a leader with the Hounds and perhaps serve as a mentor for some of the younger players on the team.
"I already know a couple guys on the team and I don't see chemistry being a problem - we should come together pretty quickly," Bodziak said. "I've been fortunate to be a captain on teams in the past and I feel that I've learned and grown from those experiences and I can come in here and be a guy people can come to with problems or advice or things like that.
"I think being a leader comes with pressure, but I like that pressure. To be honest, I don't see it as pressure, but more as motivation to go out and get the job done. We'll see what happens, but I'm definitely excited."
Bodziak said that even with him being "a little bit of a stats guy," he'd gladly sacrifice personal glory if it means more notches in the win column for the Hounds.
"Winning hockey games is what it's all about and why we play this game," said Bodziak. "Yeah, I'd like to be at the top of the list getting points for my team, but every shift, I'm giving 120 percent, blocking shots, doing whatever it takes to help the team win.
"We should have a pretty good team this year and it's one I think can compete for a national championship. Once this team comes together, I think we'll be tough to play against and one that can hopefully be at the top of the MWJHL standings."