Colorado College's Sam Rothstein put too much pressure on himself when he became the program's first junior captain last season.
But after a year's experience, the Minnesota native is more comfortable leading the Tigers because he is more focused on himself and by working hard in practice and games.
"I learned to not micromanage," the senior said as the Tigers head into their final home series this weekend. "I had to understand I am 23 and the other guys are 21 or 22 so it is not like I am taking care of 5-year olds. These are grown men and they can figure things out."
"You can read books and talk to people and what not, but after a year, I just have a better feel for the team and the guys and what the position really means," he added.
Rothstein no longer lets his attention get pulled 30-plus directions.
"He took the job to heart and put a lot of pressure on himself," Tigers coach Mike Haviland said. "I think he was trying to please everybody and listen to everybody and try to make everybody happy. This year, Sam is trying to lead by example and get back to where he was. That's why he is having a better year."
"I would get wrapped up in not playing well and that hurt my leadership," he said. "I have to focus on working hard. Doing that, regardless of points, gives you more weight in the locker room."
Building off that learning experience by Rothstein, along with the support of his fellow seniors has helped the program progress after two six-win seasons, he said.
While seven wins is a small improvement, it is how the Tigers (7-20-3, 3-14-3 NCHC) have performed that indicates an upward trajectory, Rothstein added.
An improved scoring defense -- from 4.03 (58th out of 60 teams) allowed last season to 3.27 (45th) - has offset the continuing offensive struggles. The team's offense has improved only slightly from 1.97 goals last season to 2.03 this year, heading into the home games against No. 6 and third-place Western Michigan (18-8-4, 11-8-1-1).
"If you look at some of wins in the second half and how we competed - there are some games we want back - but playing well against Duluth and Western Michigan and winning in (the) Florida (College Hockey Classic) are all things we haven't done since I have been here," Rothstein said. "We have a better grasp on how we need to play here and in tight situations. I think that is a sign of a program heading in the right direction, for sure."