2011-12 Dragon hockey team deep in experience
November 16, 2011 - By Jeff Vanek
Captian Nick Balavich (right) fights for position. (click for larger version)
Special Writer for The Review
There is no shortage of experience on Lake Orion's varsity boys hockey team this season.
A total of 15 seniors are on the roster, ten of whom return for the Dragons, who won the OAA Red division during 2010-11 season. The team also made a run to the state semi-finals before losing to Novi, the eventual state champions.
The biggest change for the 2011-12 team will be the coaching staff, lead by first-year head coach Nick Field. Assistant coaches Mark Norrington and Aaron Hundt join him.
"This is an exciting opportunity to coach at Lake Orion," Field said. "We're extremely lucky to be part of a great community and a great hockey program."
The head coach said his staff is bringing college- and pro-style systems to Lake Orion and expects the team to learn and execute them. "We demand a high level of intensity, along with playing the game smart and disciplined."
Leading this effort will be returning high scorers Nick Balavich and Shane Stockwell, as well as Daniel Chapie and Dylan Rosen, all of whom have been named captains. The head coach commended them for their leadership vocally and on the ice so far.
Also returning to the experienced roster are seniors Brad Bogus, Elliot Rinke, Leo LaBond, Andrew Vanek, Tony Johnson and Justin McKelvey. Field also noted several travel hockey players are on this year's team, including seniors Drew Galasso, Trevor Knight and Joe Bono, plus juniors David Otto, Jordan Stross and Jon Cathers.
Field said this year's team is rounded out by a number of young, talented players. Freshman Ryan Szydlowski, sophomores Jordan Stross and Jon Cathers are skilled and should contribute, he said. In addition, junior Kurt Latshaw is new to the varsity team and the coach expects him to contribute significantly.†
With an experienced and talented team, the head coach knows one of his biggest challenges will be to try and recapture the magic of last season's team that went further in the state playoffs than any Dragon hockey team to date.
"I don't think there is any blueprint to how you get back there," Field said. "I know we set our schedule up to be very tough, so we'll have played against good competition all year to prepare us for the state tournament. Other than that, it's just a matter of executing."
Before thinking about the playoffs, however, Lake Orion will be focusing on defending its league title.
"The OAA Red is extremely competitive," the head coach said. "It's a strong league with a lot of parity. That said, I fully expect us to compete for the OAA Red championship again this season."
The Dragons finished the fall preseason schedule undefeated and 1-1 in preseason scrimmages. The team plays next in the Metro Invitational in Novi this weekend, against Northville and Livonia Stevenson.
Joe St. Henry contributed to this story.