Wolves now wildly successful
December 23, 2014
Forward Devin Farkas has been one of the team leaders this season for the West Michigan Wolves.
By Will Kowalski, Battle Creek Enquirer
Michael Tratar said he took a big chance coming to play hockey in Battle Creek.
Now, the high-scoring star forward for the West Michigan Wolves Junior A team based in the Cereal City says it was the best decision he's ever made.
Tratar and the Wolves are thriving under first-year general manager and head coach Marc Fakler. West Michigan took a 16-11-1 record into the weekend, good for a third-place standing in the North American 3 Hockey League's Central Division, and are now on holiday break until early January.
Prior to Friday's and Saturday's home-and-home games against Toledo, Tratar ranked second in scoring among the over 700 players who have skated for one or more of the NA3HL's 31 teams this season — racking up 38 points on 12 goals and 26 assists in 28 games played.
And West Michigan is now thought highly of by each and every opponent the Wolves face.
Which hadn't been the case prior to the 2014-15 campaign.
In 2011-12, the then-named Battle Creek Junior Revolution won zero games. In 2012-13, the local squad of players ages 16-20 who are in the NA3HL to move up the hockey ladder either collegiately or to a higher rung of Junior A competition, had seven victories. And in 2013-14, they had one.
Enter Fakler, his coaching - Matt Staehely and Al Avery (goaltending) — and the slew of top-notch junior hockey talent from across Michigan, the country and the world they recruited to turn things around.
First came the name change to the West Michigan Wolves, and soon after came lots of high-caliber Junior A hockey and triumphs.
"At first, knowing what this franchise did last year and in past years, I was really nervous about committing to come play here in Battle Creek," Tratar said after a recent practice at The Rink.
However, said Tratar — a 19-year-old, 5-foot-8, 155-pounder who hails from Madison Heights — then found out more about Fakler's successful track record as a recruiter, coach and developer of young talent at both the junior and collegiate levels.
"When I found out through friends and others about how great of a coach Marc is, and has been for over 20 years, I figured I'd give it a shot here in Battle Creek. And now, I'm 100 percent sure I made the right choice," Tratar said.
"Coach Fakler, because of the way he develops young players, he is always helping bring kids up to a higher level. Which is where I want to be someday. I want to play NCAA college hockey. Either after this season, or after next season because I've still got one more year of eligibility left at this level. But however it works out, I know I came to the right place. I'm excited about how well this team is doing, I'm excited about finishing this season out with a run at the playoffs, and I'm just happy to be here and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."