Hope College hockey teammates Cameron Wiederhoeft and Austin Huffer both have the same goal in mind to close out their college careers — compete for a national championship.

Wiederhoeft, a Jennings County graduate and former Columbus Iceman player, got to knock off a little rust in Europe this summer to help prepare for their goal before the season started. The Flying Dutchmen flew abroad for the first time in 10 years to compete against the White Tigers of Liberec Czech Republic and Wings Hockey of Stockholm, Sweden, with 24 players and three coaches.

“I think it was really a great opportunity for the incoming guys,” Wiederhoeft said. “The freshmen getting together that early before the season starts is great in terms of bonding and getting to know each other. I’d say everybody was definitely rusty. That was the first time all summer all of the guys were skating together. There was definitely some rust we had to get off, but it was a lot of fun.”

Huffer took the 10-day trip, but the removal of his appendix kept the Columbus North graduate, who also played for the Icemen, from competing. He was sidelined for six weeks and now is back to playing.

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The Flying Dutchmen lost 5-3 to the White Tigers in what Hope coach Chris Van Timmeren said was a very competitive and evenly-matched game. The talent level improved drastically when Hope traveled to Stockholm and lost 11-1 to the Wings, who had NHL players on their roster.

Van Timmeren said getting exposed to that type of talent was a plus for his players.

“I think that we learned a lot from the practice that we had with them in Sweden and in playing against them,” Van Timmeren said. “It’s good information. It was good to play against different skill levels and different systems than we’re used to.”

Playing hockey wasn’t the only takeaway from the trip. Aside from the sightseeing, the Flying Dutchman volunteered at a Ronald McDonald home for disabled children in Sweden. The team helped bake goods for a local charity event, cleaned the grounds outside the building and organized things inside the house. Their actions picked up a lot of press in the Sweden community.

”It was really cool to get all the guys together and really make a difference helping somebody in a really different community,” Wiederhoeft said. “We didn’t get to meet any of the family members in the house, but I’m sure they appreciated us cleaning up the house for their kids and family to enjoy.”{/div}Kicking off their final season with a trip to Europe was fun for Wiederhoeft and Huffer, but now they have their minds focused on the season. The Flying Dutchmen are 5-4-1 and have lost back-to-back games.

Wiederhoeft and Huffer will be looking to help get them back on track to their goal of chasing a national title with a win against Central Florida at 7:30 p.m. today.

“Every team’s goal is to win the last game of the season, so of course we want to win a national championship,” Huffer said. “We’ll just continue to have fun and hopefully end up on top.”

Player bios

Name: Austin Huffer

High school: Columbus North

College: Hope

Year: Senior

Height: 5-7

Weight: 160

Position: Forward

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Name: Cam Wiederhoeft

High School: Jennings County

College: Hope

Year: Senior

Height: 6-2

Weight: 210

Position: Defenseman

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.