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No quit in these guys

By Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA, 02/07/12, 10:56AM CST

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Tenacious Wayzata duo makes long climb from Junior Gold to varsity


Senior Alec Waszczenko, left, has gone from being cut from Wayzata's high school program to playing regularly for the varsity this season. Photo by Helen Nelson


Alec Waszczenko

Getting cut is the harshest lesson for a potential high school hockey player.

After years of playing traveling hockey, you’re suddenly told that you’re not good enough to make that final step. It’s enough to make most players hang up their skates for good.
 
As sophomores in the Wayzata High School program, Brock Sorenson and Alec Waszczenko received the dreaded pink slip from former coach Carl Davis.

Brock Sorenson

Not only were they not on the varsity roster, but there was no room on the junior varsity either.
 
“There were about three sets of cuts,” recalled Waszczenko. “I got cut in the first one. I was pretty disappointed because I had some expectations.”
 
Current Trojans’ coach Pat O’Leary, who was an assistant under Davis at the time, encouraged the pair to not give up on their dream, no matter what had happened during their first varsity tryout. He wanted both to play Junior Gold hockey.
 
“We were so deep on high-end talent,” said O’Leary of those powerful Trojans’ teams that featured players such as Tony Cameranesi, Scott Holm, Tyler Klein and Mario Lucia. “We got through to them to not shut it down yet.”
 
O’Leary stressed that getting cut as sophomores didn’t have to end their hockey careers. When the Cameranesis and Lucias moved on, there would be openings for players who worked hard for their spots.
 
Sorenson and Waszczenko got the message.
 
Two years later, both are playing a regular varsity shift for No. 9AA Wayzata (13-7-1), which has surprised many observers by moving into the state’s Top 10 rankings – even after graduating those powerhouse players.
 
And both players are contributing to that success. 
 
Waszczenko has five goals, including the game-winner in overtime in a 5-4 victory against Hill-Murray in mid-December. O’Leary called him a “north-south player. A big strong kid who has worked hard on getting physically strong.”

Wayzata senior Brock Sorenson has three goals this season. Photo by Helen Nelson

Meanwhile, Sorenson netted his third goal of the season in a 4-3 loss to Benilde-St. Margaret’s Monday night. “Brock is more of a lateral player with good hands and good playmaking abilities,” O’Leary said.

“Both are good team guys who play good defense. And they’re giving us some goals this year, which has been nice.”

O’Leary – and the rest of the Trojans’ program -- are happy the hard-working duo made the decision to keep fighting. 

“We have two guys in our regular lineup that played Junior Gold for our high school program,” O’Leary said. “So you never know what’s going to happen when you get to the high school ranks.

“We really try to talk to the kids that we ‘cut’ and explain to them that we have a good relationship with the Junior Gold program. They do a good job of keeping the kids around and developing them.”

It helped that neither player was ready to call it a career.

Waszczenko said getting cut fired him up for the challenge of proving the coaching staff wrong. He wanted to use the Junior Gold season to springboard into a varsity spot as a junior but, “I had some doubts but I wanted to prove myself that I could play up to that level.”

Sorenson also called it a disappointment, but not one that was going to keep him down either. He wanted to “show everyone that it wasn’t a life sentence. You can come up from that.”

Their journey to the varsity squad started with a state championship at the Junior Gold level under coach Jonathon Lindahl, whom Sorenson credited as “ really influential in my development that year.” 

Waszczenko and Sorenson learned to be the go-to players on that team and also trained harder than they ever had before.

As juniors, they returned to the varsity tryout process with renewed hopes. As they advanced through the cuts, their confidence grew. Sorenson earned a spot on the junior varsity squad, while Waszczenko was a “swing line” player, playing both junior varsity and as the fourth varsity line.

This November during tryouts, they got even better news – both had made the Trojans’ varsity.
 
“It was one of the best feelings I’d ever felt in my life,” smiled Sorenson. “All the hard work paid off, but I knew I’d have to continue to work hard to get playing time.
 
“But it was an amazing feeling.”

Wayzata's Alec Waszczenko during Hockey Day action in Moorhead last year. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen

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