Dan Warnecke walks softly but carries a potent stick. A right wing for the St. Louis University High hockey team, the 5-foot-9, 170- pound Warnecke has scored a team-high 20 goals and handed out 16 assists for 36 points.
A team captain, Warnecke just goes about his business in a quiet and effective manner, says SLUH coach Charles Busenhart. He’s not so much a rah rah leader, but he’s one who knows how to give a maximum effort. “He’s not a lazy player,” Busenthart says. “That’s not his way of doing things.”
Instead, Warnecke does the extra things to be at his best on game day. Whether it’s going through a rigorous stretching routine before the game or hustling back to make a defensive play, Warnecke will do whatever it takes for a victory. “He loves to play the game,” Busenhart says. “He just wants to have fun.”
Warnecke also is one of the major contributors to a team that is 13-2-2 at Ladue News press time and has a rematch with rival CBC (16-1) slated for 8 p.m. Friday at Affton Ice Rink at the Affton Athletic Association. It’s the third meeting between these two teams, and the Junior Billikens and Cadets have split the first two. SLUH jumped all over CBC in their first matchup with a 5-1 win. CBC answered with a 3-1 win when it scored twice in the blink of an eye to take a 2-0 lead moments into the first period.
For the rubber match, Warnecke is hoping SLUH can find a way to skate off the ice with the season series. “We have to generate a lot of quality chances,” Warnecke, 17, says. “We have to get some dirty goals and the pretty ones will follow.”
The last time these two teams played, CBC goalie Joe O’Brien was lights out between the pipes. He saved all but one of SLUH’s 34 shots. To crack this brick wall, Warnecke and linemate Trent Lulow will have to be at their best. Lulow has 11 goals and a team-high 20 assists for 31 points this season. The duo has provided much of SLUH’s scoring punch this winter. “They’ve played together four years,” Busenhart says. “They have great chemistry and they know each other well.”
Oftentimes, when Warnecke is lighting the lamp, it’s on the end of a nice set-up from Lulow. There are a million different ways to put the puck in the net, and Warnecke loves every one of them. But given his druthers he likes to send it between the goalie’s shoulder pads and the top of the cross bar. “I like shooting and going high,” says Warnecke. “Top shelf is kind of my thing.”
SLUH has been top shelf this season. The Junior Billikens are the only team to knock off powerhouse CBC this winter, and appear to have an inside track to one of the top spots in the Mid-States Club Hockey Association Challenge Cup postseason tournament.
SLUH has been to the finals just once in the last three seasons, and Warnecke was a just a freshman. The past two seasons, SLUH reached the semifinal round, but have failed to come out of those games a winner. Two years ago, they lost to De Smet. Last year, it was Francis Howell. Both would eventually win the title.
This year, Warnecke wants more than anything to reach the semifinals, leave the Chesterfield rink a winner and take a shot at the Challenge Cup. All he’s asking for is a chance. And he doesn’t ask for much.