November 21, 2012 - The NHL player lockout is keeping Detroit Red Wing fans from their favorite sport, but Orion fans will soon have an outlet for their hockey cravings.
Sophomore Ben Bock whips a puck at the net. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
The Dragons are ready to take to the ice and will begin with an invitational tournament on Friday in Novi.
Preceding that, the team played the Canton Chiefs in a scrimmage on Nov. 10, getting an unofficial win (2-0.)
But the team is facing a problem that many high school teams face - an abundance of graduated seniors.
The team graduated 15 of their senior core last year and the remaining team is left attempting to replace the lost experience.
"We have a solid nucleus of some younger guys and some guys that came up from JV last year," said Head Coach Nick Field. "I feel that we will be competitive, it's just a matter of being a younger team. Last year we had an experienced team and in those close games they knew what it took to win.
"I'm hoping we can start strong and we'll see how fast they can grasp and learn what it's going to take. I think we'll progress."
Field said the number one challenge for the 2012-13 hockey season will be getting the newer players to understand how to prepare and how to work with their teammates.
He said it's not tangible, but hockey players cannot simply show up and play - they have to be physically and mentally prepared in a manner only experience can teach. Despite the team's youth, however, Field feels good about their skill level.
The team started practice two weeks ago and some of the newer players are beginning to hold their own.
Sophomore Ryan Szydlowski played last year and Field said he would be relying on him to lead this year. Sophomore Mark Kerchner is another player to watch who came up from JV from last year and sophomore Conner Moesta kept sharp while on a travel team. Freshman Drew Casey was also on a travel team.
Returning senior forward Kurt Latshaw is expected to contribute while defensively, seniors Mark Nylen, David Otto and junior Jordan Stross will continue with their major roles from 2011.
In goal is junior Logan Aldrich who played backup last year for graduate Drew Galasso.
Concerning the competition, Field said the teams to watch out for aren't that far from home.
"Based on what I've heard and what I saw, Oxford and Clarkston are going to be good," he said. "Stoney Creek and Rochester United are going to be good too. Those four are going to give us tough games. But there are not any teams that will just run away with it this year. There is a lot of competition and parity."
Last year the Dragons had a 16-8-3 and won the OAA Red Conference. They played briefly in the playoffs before falling to Utica Eisenhower in the regionals, 1-0.