Apr 13, 2010

Semenyna leaves mark on Liberty hockey

by Ryan Walter

At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, three-time All American Dave Semenyna has been the face of Liberty Hockey the past four years. However, after talking to him you would not know it. Always with a wide smirk ready to crack a joke at any moment, one would never guess he was the Liberty Flames leading scorer three out of four years.

“I just love playing hockey,” Semenyna said. “I love everything about it.”

The graduating senior’s love of the game has always been his focus. This passion dates back to his earliest moments of skating on his backyard rink made by his father in the small town of Rimbey, Alberta, Canada. His fondest memories as a child were going to the rink with his parents, Denis and Louis, and getting a chance to play hockey.

“They always supported me. My mom and my dad would always drive me to practice and early games,” Semenyna said. “They put in a lot of time and money.”

Growing up, Semenyna played on various small town teams. One team in particular, near a native reserve, lined him up with the likes of Adam Buffalo and Clay Potts. However, it came time for Semenyna to get serious about hockey and no one else supported him like his dad.

“He would always support me,” Semenyna said of his father. “He made it easy on me to make some decisions.”

For all the time and money Semenyna’s parents invested, they had to watch him leave home his senior year of high school to play hockey in Saskatchewan, Canada. Living six hours from home was not easy for Semenyna either.

“At first, I was nervous. I didn’t know one person who went there,” Semenyna said. “The first week on the dorm was lonely. Then I got into football and hockey and got to know some of the guys.”

After high school, Semenyna left for the beautiful west coast province of British Columbia, Canada. He had an illustrious junior hockey career playing for the Penticton Panthers and Victoria Salsa of the BCHL. However, after a disappointing season at the age of 20, he pondered quitting hockey for good.

In fact, before coming to Liberty, Semenyna had hung up the skates. He took a year off to try and test life after hockey, but it did not suit him well.

“Hockey has always been something I enjoyed,” Semenyna said. “It keeps me having fun.”

Semenyna was invited three weeks before the start of the school year to go to Liberty and try out for the team. It was not obvious that he would be the cornerstone of Liberty Hockey when he first stepped on the ice at the LaHaye Ice Center.

“I got here a week late for class and out of shape,” Semenyna said. “I came into a situation I didn’t have a clue about.”

After one season, both Semenyna and the Liberty Flames hockey club knew that they had a shot at winning with him as the backbone.

“After the first year, I thought we could have won every year,” Semenyna said. “I went from being out of shape and 20 pounds overweight to getting serious. I didn’t want to let the team down.”

Semenyna went on to have four consecutive 60-plus point seasons while racking up at least 20 goals a season. He was among the top scorers every year, despite playing as a defenseman. He was presented numerous awards while leading the Liberty Flames to the final four of the ACHA National Tournament in 2008.

However, his fondest moment of Liberty Hockey had nothing to do with his own achievements.

“My best memory was our mission trip to Russia,” Semenyna said. “I could tell it was going to be something that would not only impact us but the people we came into contact with.”

He was quick to also point out that the fans who packed the LaHaye Center every weekend made every game memorable. He was a self proclaimed supporter that Liberty fans are the best fans in the league.

“The fans would show up and go insane and get the other teams rattled,” Semenyna said. “We could always rely on them to give us a boost.”

Yet, it was not the fans or hockey team that impacted Semenyna the most during his stay at Liberty. It was at Liberty where he found purpose and direction in his life.
“It’s made me not panic about the future and taught me to follow God’s will,” Semenyna said. “If I work hard and put first what God wants me to do, that will be the best thing for my life.”

As a senior this year graduating in May, Semenyna will truly have to test his conclusion. One thing is for sure — the imprint he left on the Liberty Hockey program will be a lasting one.

“Playing hard and working hard for the team was always my goal,” Semenyna said. “Everything else was a bonus.”

Contact Ryan Walter
at rmwalter@liberty.edu.

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