GRAND RAPIDS, MI – This month, two West Michigan athletes will travel to Trentino, Italy, to play ice hockey at the prestigious Winter World University Games.
Davenport University’s Phil Wendecker, a Westland, MI, native and Livonia Churchill graduate, will compete on the United States men’s ice hockey team; Michigan State University’s Andrea Stewart, a Grand Rapids-native and Jenison High grad, will compete on the women’s team.
The honor was not the first for Wendecker, an ACHA D1 First-Team All-American, a member of the GLCHL 1st Team (2012-13) and captain on Davenport’s DI team.
Wendecker has scored 11 goals as a defender so far this season, including three in Davenport’s 4-3 season-opening win at Western Michigan University. His season-high is 21 goals, scored during his sophomore year along with 19 assists for a total of 40 points.
Last season, he led the league with 19 goals scored as a defender and also tallied 16 assists, Davenport coach Phil Sweeney said.
“Phil is one of the best players in the league,” Sweeney said. “He really stands out every game and does an awesome job.”
Sweeney said Wendecker entered Patterson Ice Center with a grin and informed him about the accolade shortly before practice earlier this season.
“I was so excited for him,” Sweeney said. “I could see that look in his eyes that you see when someone accomplishes one of their goals. As a coach, it was incredible to watch.”
Sweeney said he was unsure where Wendecker will end up, but stated that he will find success regardless of setting.
“A guy like Phil has a ton of options,” he said. “You just know he will be successful and do a good job wherever he goes.”
MSU coach Jeff Wilson, now in his ninth year as the DI club hockey team, said he was contacted by the recruiters and encouraged them to take a closer look at Stewart.
“Andrea is a very aggressive, hard-working defender,” Wilson said. “We knew she would be aggressive, and she has proven to be everything we were hoping for.
“She came out and did an outstanding job last season, and as a result of her play, she drew the attention of Team U.S.A.”
Stewart has played all 12 games in the first half of MSU’s season, earning three assists and helping secure five shutouts. Last year, she had three assists, a goal, and played 21 games.
“She is an extremely strong skater, and a strong individual,” Wilson said. “She plays very aggressively, and makes it hard for the opponent to do anything; I think that will help Team U.S.A. in international play.”
Wilson said the honor is well-deserved, and hopes that Stewart’s time playing abroad will strengthen her play when she returns for the latter half of MSU’s season.
“Being selected for Team U.S.A. is an honor,” Wilson said. “The last time I spoke to her, I don’t think it had sunk in yet.
“It should be a great experience, and maybe once she completes her play over there, she will see that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”