Varsity ice hockey previews 2012-13
By Ryan Kaczmarski
With the annual Thanksgiving holiday ice hockey tournaments playing out last weekend, the regular season is now upon us.
ROCKY RIVER hosted its annual Thanksgiving hockey Classic, and the team is prepped to continue the success it had in the 2011-12 season.
The Pirates are coming off a season in which their overall record was 27-7 (8-2 in league play), which is a school record for victories in a season. There are nine returning seniors on this year’s squad, including captains Eric Sperli, Kyle Kopchek and Bobby Perez, all forwards, who will be key for the Pirates’ high-powered offense. The Pirates also feature senior goalkeeper Jake Nicholson between the pipes. Rounding out the upperclassmen are seniors Brandon DeLano, Tommy Garibaldi, Tyler Stohr and Jordan Wooley; and juniors Brock Reimenschneider, Tom Robenalt, Logan Drell, Joe Weger, Michael Ittu, Matt Forlini, J.R. Schiau, Jack Gerlack and Ryan Kostelnik.
“All the seniors bring leadership and lots of depth to the team this season,” Rocky River head coach Chris Cogan said.
The underclassmen dressing for the team are sophomores P.J. Sperli, Connor Schumacker, Matt Lowry, Cam Heider, Jack Mallett and Anthony Mod. There are nine others listed as reserves.
One noted omission from this year’s Pirates roster is forward Tyler Harkins, who has transferred to St. Edward High School and is playing for the Eagles.
“That’s a lot of player to lose,” Cogan said. “He’s playing at the next level – the red north division – and hopefully we’ll have someone step up this year and fill his shoes.”
According to Cogan, the biggest games on this year’s schedule are against Holy Name and Walsh Jesuit. He also looks to the Shaker Heights holiday tournament and the Lake Catholic tournament for some stiff competition.
The team goals are to win the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League Red North division and to go deep into the state tournament.
BAY is looking to rebound from its 5-22-1 record from last season. The Rockets have seniors Jake Kirk (center) and Tim Figueira (goalkeeper), and junior defenseman and captain Chris Gulley, returning this year.
“(We have) strong leadership,” Bay head coach Rick Kirk said. “Seniors Jake and Tim have played together since they were mites.”
Kirk is looking for increased production from junior Andrew Majercik and sophomores Nate Best, Luke Nye, Tim Debronsky, David DiMattia and Jack Aldridge.
“We are very inexperienced,” Kirk said. “Ten players have just started playing (hockey) in the past year or two.”
The Rockets are looking to better last year’s record, while improving the new players’ game and maintaining the tradition of Bay hockey.
LAKEWOOD is playing its first season in the West Shore Conference, while staying in the GCHSHL Blue Central West division.
The Rangers had a successful 2011-12 campaign, going 15-8-2, and are looking to improve on that record. There are 13 returning lettermen on this year’s team, including offensive players Stephen Sorger, Chris Richardson, Victor Dobos, Zach Moran and Nate Bonacuse, and defensive players Matt Johnson, Aaron Kovach, Colin Scheel and Tommy Kettel.
A key newcomer to the team is goalkeeper Hunter Nugent.
“We have our full defensive core returning from last year,” Rangers head coach Josh Dress said. “Colin Scheel is a defenseman who plays well on both sides of the puck and has a strong defensive presence, while being able to create offense when the opportunities arrive. Tommy Kettel is a sound defensive player with solid decision making skills and has the ability to make plays on both the offensive and defensive ends. Matt Johnson is physical and fast, and also adds offense when he is on the ice. Aaron Kovach is very fast and has the ability to carry the puck while always being able to use his speed to make defensive plays in our zone.”
The combination of Richardson, Dobos and Bonacuse have been a potent offensive line in the preseason, and Dress hopes that it continues throughout the season.
“They are able to move the puck well and have shown that they can anticipate what each other may do in a given shift, and we are excited to see their continued chemistry this season,” he said. “Stephen Sorger will be centering a line with junior Zach Moran and freshman Jake Gregory. This is a group that has been coming together this preseason and has the ability to create a great deal of offensive opportunities. Victor Dobos and Stephen Sorger are coming off productive seasons last year and we expect them to provide a scoring punch, along with Moran, Bonacuse and Richardson. These two offensive groups are going to provide us with a strong line combination and will help pave the way for the other two offensive lines we have.”
While the team has a big offensive punch, Dress thinks the defense will be the strength of the team.
“This group is made up of four returning lettermen that saw high amounts of ice time last season,” he said. “Also, our goaltender, Hunter Nugent, has played very well this preseason and we expect him to continue this trend for the remainder of the year. Our defensemen play well together and provide a solid defensive base while adding offensive firepower to any of our lines.
“Another strength are the returning forwards from last season,” Dress added. “These players have grown and improved their skills from last year and will be exciting to watch.”
The Rangers are looking forward to winning their division and securing a spot in the Baron Cup tournament.
“This is typically the main goal for us, and it affects every player in a different way,” Dress said. “This is a goal that we all have a part in, no matter if it is a defenseman, forward, goaltender or coach. When we focus on this goal, it has positive effects on all aspects of our season.”
The NORTH OLMSTED team has started the season off on the right path, making the championship game of the Normandy High School Bruce Anderson Memorial tournament over the weekend.
The Eagles’ key returning players are Alex Arendec (captain), Michael Shakleton (captain), Brenden Kirk, Shawn Elliott and goalkeeper Chase Cullinan.
“Arendec and Shakleton are key to this team’s (success),” Eagles head coach Tim Murphy said. “They are both in their fourth year (on the team). Arendec is one of the more skilled forwards in the area and ‘Shak’ is a solid and very physical defenseman.
“They bring a great amount of experience and leadership, and have both played at a high level all of their lives.”
The Eagles are looking to have a winning season, land a Baron Cup berth and see personal improvement on and off the ice.
“Our season will be decided on goaltending and the ability of some of our returning players like Evan Solomon and Ben Henley, along with newcomers Mike Gallo, Jon Novak, Mike Ceepo and Tyler Merth making the adjustment to high school hockey,” Murphy said.
WESTLAKE is in its third season as a program and its first season competing as a varsity sport, joining the GCHSHL in the White West division.
The key returning players for the Demons are defenseman Ben Thurstone and center Kent Axcell.
“Kent is the all-time leading scorer and has led the offense for our first two years,” Westlake head coach John Duke said. “Ben has anchored our defense since the program’s inception and continues to push his own game and lead by example.”
The team is looking forward to its first-ever league game against Brecksville on Dec. 1. Other big games on the schedule are against Elyria Catholic on Dec. 9, which will be the first home league game, and the game against Kent Roosevelt on Dec. 20 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“We have a deep, experienced blue line and a core group of juniors who include a top line of Axcell, Rudy Keppler and Paul Freedman,” Duke said. “We are replacing one of the top goalies in the area, Matt Russell, with a new goalie, Joey Guay. Joe is new to hockey and is developing rapidly.”
Duke wants to stay above .500 this season and qualify for the Baron Cup.
“Demons hockey looks to build upon a very successful first two years,” he said. “Our team has met every challenge thus far, and we will meet this year’s challenges.
“Demons hockey continues to represent Westlake to the highest standards, both on and off the ice.”
OLMSTED FALLS continues to struggle in overall numbers, only fielding 11 players this season. Eight of those players are returning letter winners Kevin Petitti, Jeremy Polcar, Chris Polcar, Jake Norman, Steve Wilks, Lilly Perkins, Brady Wertman and Mark Schindler.
The newcomers on the team are Joey Egan, Zach Sadowski and Hunter Bradford.
“(We are) a very hard working team, that will improve as the year goes on,” Bulldogs head coach Brian Thompson said. “I love the way the team has prepared for the season and how dedicated they are to becoming better.”