The Western Michigan University men’s hockey team recently hosted its annual banquet to celebrate the 2013-2014 season, handing out team awards and naming the captains for the upcoming campaign.
Waconia resident Taylor Fleming, a 2011 St. Thomas Academy graduate, was named the Suzanne Klop Rookie of the Year. The freshman defenseman was the only rookie to play in all 40 games and recorded seven points on one goal and six assists. His +5 plus/minus led all WMU defensemen.
WMU is a member of the newly formed Division I National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). Teams include former WCHA members University of Minnesota – Duluth, St. Cloud State University, North Dakota State University, Denver University, Colorado College, University of Nebraska – Omaha, and CCHA member Miami University.
The WMU Broncos finished the season fourth in the NCHC and were also fourth in the inaugural conference championship, the NCHC Frozen Four Faceoff, held each year at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
WMU head coach Andy Murray is in his third year with the program. Murray came to WMU with an extensive coaching resume at the highest level of professional hockey, that includes 20 years in the NHL either as an assistant or head coach.
Murray had high praises and expectations of his freshman defenseman.
“Taylor has been very consistent in his game,” Murray said. “[Fleming] is a tremendous skater. I don’t want to put any kind of label on him, but he’s got Tory Krug elusiveness and we all know how good Tory Krug was with Michigan State and now with the Boston Bruins.”
Murray said Fleming is a great student, a requirement within the men’s hockey program. Fleming is a business major, who has been named to the WMU Dean’s List twice. In March, he received NCHC Academic All-Conference honors with the team’s second-highest GPA of 3.88.
Murray said Fleming has the potential to be a professional athlete.
“He’s got a solid body and trains hard. He needs to continue to work on his defensive game and he’s working at that,” Murray said. “I don’t believe yet that he realizes how good he can possibly be. He’s a guy that we expect big things from moving forward here.”