There are plenty of hockey teams that start the year with visions of Baron Cup or state playoff championships dancing in their head.
Other teams just want to keep their hockey programs alive.
Avon Lake falls into the latter category. It didn’t even know if it would have a team this season until several members of last year’s squad took it upon themselves to do some recruiting.
Even this year’s coach was recruited. Fran Sullivan went from being president of the hockey boosters a year ago to coach just a couple of weeks before the season started.
“We knew back in the summer that we would have to get out and recruit players if there was going to be a season,” Sullivan said. “There were three kids — Christian Duerk, Matt Wozniak and Keegan (his son). That made it easy to name those three as captains for the team this year after everything they did.”
For Duerk, a senior with hockey experience, there was no question he would take playing with an inexperienced team over not playing at all.
“We actually got a few guys playing pond hockey last winter and I just kept bugging some of them to come out and try the game,” Duerk said. “I ended up bringing in a lot of friends and trying to introduce them to the game.”
One of the newcomers was senior Cody Wootton, who just started skating in July. After a regular season filled with games and practices, Wootton has come on fast, contributing three goals and a pair of assists.
Wootton has one regret, though.
“I wish I had started playing hockey a long time ago,” he said. “Christian was always texting me to come up and play pond hockey. He even got me skates and equipment so I could learn how to play (this year).
“Even though we haven’t had the best year (1-21-1), I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It’s been great and I don’t want to see the season come to an end.”
One player with a unique view of everything on the ice is goalie Keegan Sullivan. He faces an inordinate number of shots because the team is so young and inexperienced, especially on defense.
Sullivan, a sophomore, had 1,183 saves last year and has 891 so far this season. His save total from last year is the third highest in Ohio High School Athletic Association history, his current total is sixth all time and his two-year career total is already fourth.
For Sullivan, not having a hockey season wasn’t an option. He was all-in when it came to hitting the recruiting trail.
“When we started captains practices last summer, I knew I needed to start getting my friends out there to play,” Sullivan said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult season with so many inexperienced guys.
“It really didn’t matter though, we grew together as a team and we are going out there every night just trying to get better. Sometimes it’s tough to keep losing, but every night we all seem to have a smile on our face when we leave the ice.”
For the Shoremen, there is no Baron Cup or state title in their future this year, but keeping the team alive and playing was the ultimate team goal. And the future looks bright for next year as the recruiting efforts from this year have already lined up four more players.
With a year of experience for the youngsters and some new blood coming in, the Avon Lake hockey program seems to be alive and well.
Baron Cup not barren
Two local teams will make their Baron Cup debuts this week.
Avon goes into Baron Cup II as the top seed after winning the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League White West Division with a sparkling 9-1 record.
The Eagles (24-3-1, 9-1), who lost their first division game of the year, will face Benedictine (11-15, 3-5) tonight at 6:30 at the Brooklyn Recreation Center, where all the games will be played. Avon beat the Bengals 6-0 in the first game of the year for both teams.
Midview enters Baron Cup II as the seventh seed and will tangle with White East champion Cleveland Heights (10-8-3, 6-1-1) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The Middies (10-13, 5-5), in the White Division for the first time, did not face the Tigers during the regular season.
The eventual champion will probably come out of the West Division as Avon, Western Reserve and North Canton Hoover all took turns beating up on each other during the regular season.
In the Baron Cup III tournament, Olmsted Falls enters as the fourth seed after tying Parma for the Blue West title. The Bulldogs (19-7, 11-1) meet up with Twinsburg (11-9-1, 6-4) on Tuesday at 4:30. The teams did not play this year.
West Geauga, which probably should have been a White division team this year, may be the favorite coming out of the Blue East. But don’t count out Olmsted Falls or Parma making it to the finals.
In the Baron Cup I tournament, Westlake is on the outside looking in since five teams from the Red North made it and only three from the Red South.
The Demons finished fourth in the South Division with a 5-5 mark, but fifth-place Brecksville advanced with a 2-8 mark in the North Division.
Still, it would be a shock if anyone beats top-seeded Rocky River (24-5-1, 9-0-1), though defending state champion Shaker Heights (13-12-2) might have the best shot.
BARON CUP SCHEDULE
(Overall and league record shown)
All games at Brooklyn Recreation Center
Baron Cup I (Red Division)
#1 Rocky River (24-5-1, 9-0-1) vs. #8 Solon (11-11, 6-4) — Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
#4 Mentor (8-19-1, 4-6) vs. #5 Brecksville (12-17, 2-8) — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.
#2 Shaker Heights (13-12-2, 7-1-2) vs. #7 Kent Roosevelt (24-4-1, 8-2) — Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
#3 Hudson (14-12-3, 6-4) vs. #6 Kenston (20-5-2, 9-1) — Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals — Saturday, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Final — Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
Baron Cup II (White Division)
#1 Avon (24-3-1,9-1) vs. #8 Benedictine (11-15-1,3-5) — today, 6:30 p.m.
#4 Orange (13-8-2, 5-2-1) vs. #5 North Canton (13-8-2, 6-4) — today, 8:30 p.m.
#2 Cleveland Hts. (10-8-3, 6-1-1) vs. #7 Midview (10-13, 5-5) — Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
#3 Western Reserve (17-7-1, 7-3) vs. #6 Mayfield (11-14-1, 5-3) — Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals — Friday, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Final — Sunday, 3 p.m.
Baron Cup III (Blue Division)
#1 West Geauga (14-3-1,10-0) vs. #8 Garfield Heights (10-11, 6-6) — Monday, 4:30 p.m.
#4 Olmsted Falls (18-7,11-1) vs. #5 Twinsburg (11-9-1, 6-4) — Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.
#2 Parma (18-10-1,11-1) vs. #7 Nordonia (5-16-1, 4-6) — Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
#3 Brush (12-2,8-2) vs. #6 Normandy (9-16-2, 7-5) —Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals — Saturday, 1 and 3 p.m.
Final — Sunday, 1 p.m.
State tourney looming
With the Baron Cup playoffs starting today, the state hockey tournament can’t be that far away. The district draw for the 36th annual tournament will be held in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Last year’s representative out of Brooklyn was Rocky River, which lost 4-2 to the Kent regional winner, Shaker Heights, in the state semifinals at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Olmsted Falls’ resurgence has a lot to do with its lone senior, Jacob Norman.
Norman’s abilities were on full display Wednesday at Rocky River’s Hamilton Arena when he tied the school record with seven goals in a 10-0 win over Avon Lake. It ties him for third in the state for most goals in a game.
Norman has 57 goals on the year, breaking the school record of 54 set by Cory Daugherty in the 2010-11 season.
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or email@example.com.