ELYRIA - It might be hard to believe, but Richie Baker and Brad Moore never shared the ice until the two of them got to high school.
"There is a cutoff for age," said Baker, Elyria Catholic`s star left wing and the leading returning scorer among high school hockey players on the west side of Cleveland. "I`m a bit older than (Brad), so I was always a year ahead of him. I missed the cutoff date by about a month."
What Baker meant was that when he and Moore, the EC goaltender, were playing with the Mites, Squirts, Peewees and Bantams - the predecessors to varsity and club hockey for youthful skaters - they were never teammates or rivals.
They are teammates now, and classmates. Moore is one of the younger members of the Class of 2008 at EC, having turned 17 in July. Baker recently turned 18.
They`re also two-thirds of the Panthers` entire senior contingent (defenseman Brad Kelley is the other) and the only starters back from a team that had what their coach, Dave Phiel, once called "a season for the ages."
The Panthers were 27-6 in 2006-07. They reached the semifinal round of the Brooklyn Regional for the first time in school history. Baker had 82 points for the year with 31 goals and a whopping 51 assists. Moore posted a 2.3 goals-per-game average while registering eight shutouts.
But there was a lot of help last season, as a remarkable senior class of hockey players graduated last spring. Baker and Moore have been thrust into the leadership roles.
"We`ve been waiting since we were freshman to lead this team," Baker said. "We`re looking forward to this season."
"It`s not about us," Moore added. "We just need to teach the younger players what we know. They listen. They`ve been working hard in practice."
Phiel said Baker and Moore are marvelous building blocks to have when constructing a high school team.Â Â
"Richie is a great kid, both on and off the ice," Phiel said "He`s a very unselfish player, strong with the puck. I think he is one of the best players in the league one-on-one. He is sure to draw a lot of attention, and that will only make the other scorers more of a threat. Rich will set the tone offensively and defensively.
"What can you say about Brad? Brad played lights out last year. He has really good hand-eye coordination. He was really aggressive on the rebounds last year. We won a lot of one-goal games because of Brad."
Baker has been a star from Day 1, leading the Panthers in scoring each season he has worn the uniform.
Not so for Moore. He didn`t get the goalie job until the fifth game of his sophomore season. The Panthers lost to Normandy, 5-3, and Phiel decided his senior goalie was replaceable.
"We were reasonably confident he could be the starter," the coach said about Moore`s predecessor. "We decided to go with a senior and make it his job to lose. He had some trouble and he did lose the job. It was Brad`s duty to answer the bell and he has played well ever since."
The Panthers were 2-5-1 at one point that year, but righted their ship and went 14-6 for the rest of the season. In a rematch against Normandy, EC prevailed 6-1.
Once the season ends, the lives of Baker and Moore will likely go in different directions. Baker is a three-sport standout, excelling in football and track as well as hockey. He will go to college and play either football or hockey.
"I`d love to play college hockey," he said. "I want to play either football or hockey. It`ll probably be football. That`s definitely a lot easier; more opportunities to play football in college. To play college hockey you kind of have to be Canadian."
Moore also said he`d like to continue with hockey, but has a specific career goal in mind.
"I just want to play," Moore said. "Varsity, club â€“ it doesn`t matter. But I will be going to school to be a firefighter, so that probably means a community college."
Elyria Catholic, as it has for so many years, will open its season at the Normandy Thanksgiving Tournament this weekend at Ries Rink in Parma.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY CAPSULESÂ
COACH: Steve Morris
DIVISION: White West
2006-07 RECORD: 10-16-1 (6-7 division)
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (14): F Trevor Mick, Sr.; F Bill Nagel, Sr.; D Adam Willard, Sr.; F Tyler Branscum, Jr.; G Courtney Carney, Jr.; F Rob Lyghtel, Jr.; F Ryan Morris, Jr.; F Erica Shore, Jr.; D Brian Sochacki, So.; D Matt Sochacki, Jr.; D Matt Willard, Jr.; D Shaun Hunt, So.; F Jaron Smith, So.; F Shamus Sorrell, So.
NEWCOMER: D Sam Maple, Fr.
STRENGTHS: Scoring ability, goaltending.
WEAKNESS: Depth on defense.
SCOUTING REPORT: Amherst has its top scorers back in Nagel (46 points) and Morris (41 points), so there`s hope for the Comets to improve on their 3.26 goals per game average. The big job is replacing graduated goalie Adam King, who held the position for four seasons. If new goalie Courtney Carney is up to the task, Amherst has a shot at winning the White West.
AVON LAKE SHOREMEN
COACH: Brent Figueira
DIVISION: Red South
2006-07 RECORD: 14-13-1 (4-6 division)
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (14): F Alex Bergendahl, Sr.; F Mike Dillon, Sr.; G Bryan Emery, Sr.; D Scott Shaffer, Sr.; F-D Chase Callander, Jr.; F Makz Galati, Jr.; G Tyler Jeske, Jr.; F Ryan McDonough, Jr.; D Adam Robertson, J.; D Paul Dyczkowski, So.; F Cody Griffith, So.; F Jeff Rauch, So.; D Matt Scott, So.; D Jordan Zwolinski, So.
NEWCOMERS: F Brennan Wagner, Jr.; F Alex Cozier, So.; F Nick Cozier, So.; F Tom Batt, Fr.; F James Goodwin, Fr.; D Anthony Lewis, Fr. Â Â Â
STRENGTHS: Defense, return of top scorer (Dillon) and starting goalie (Emery).
WEAKNESS: Loss of many scoring threats.
SCOUTING REPORT: Dillon and his 59 points are back, but the Shoremen are going to miss graduated Kyle Andersson (41 points), as well as Hunter Cherni (36 points) and Tom Coy (30 points), both of whom now play for the Cleveland Barons Midget Minor team. Plus, Figueira is in his first season as head coach. "It will be a trial by fire," Figueira said. "A lot of kids will get opportunities. There`s a need for leadership. It`s almost like starting from scratch."
COACH: Terry Chadwick
DIVISION: White West
2006-07 RECORD: 14-17 (3-10 division)
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (12): F Charlie Davis, Sr.; D Zach Hahn, Sr.; F Dan Kana, Sr.; F Chris Miske, Sr.; F Chris Osborne, Sr.; F Chris Sedlak, Sr.; G Kevin Figueira, Jr.; F Buddy Martin, Jr.; F Matt McLaughlin, Jr.; D Matt Notarberadino, Jr.; F Jack Jordan, So.; F Dan Pailes, So.
NEWCOMERS: F Corey White, So.; G Dominic Zappala, So.; F Alex Harris, Fr.; F Luke Heberle, Fr.
STRENGTHS: Experience, scoring, goaltending.
WEAKNESS: Depth on defense.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Rockets will miss experienced defenseman Cam Skinner, who underwent knee surgery following an injury suffered during football season. Bay returns its top scorers with Sedlak (44 points), Davis (36 points) and Kana (25 points). Figueira returns at goalie after a strong season, but a defensive running mate must be found for Hahn.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC PANTHERS
COACH: Dave Phiel
DIVISION: Red South
2006-07 RECORD: 27-6 (9-1 division)
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (8): F Richie Baker, Sr.; D Brad Kelley, Sr.; G Brad Moore, Sr.; D Matt Fielding, Jr.; F Chris Andrews, Jr.; F Mike Freeh, Jr.; F Patrick DeSouza, So.; G Andrew Field, So.
NEWCOMERS: F Chad Botos, Jr.; F-D Michael Petroff, Jr.; D Sean Muir, Jr.; F Joe Griswold, So.; F Justin Saunders, So.; F Cody Toboz, So.; D Gary Spikowski, Jr.; F Brent Zifcak, So.; F Kevin Andrews, Fr.; D Nick Williams, So.; F Bradley Oravitz, So.; D Steven Wisnieski, So.
STRENGTHS: Goaltending, Baker`s offensive prowess.
WEAKNESS: Inexperience on defense.
SCOUTING REPORT: Baker (82 points) and Moore (8 shutouts) are a good place to begin to build a team that lost 13 via graduation. The Panthers will be hard-pressed to repeat last year`s banner season. The top three defensemen from 2006-07 are gone, as well as big scorers like Mark Haszto, Jarrod Thomas, Darian Thomas and Ryan Soucek, but with two brilliant stars and a couple other lettermen ready to step into bigger roles, EC can`t be counted out in the division.
COACH: Paul McKito
DIVISION: Blue North
2006-07 RECORD: 12-13-1 (6-4 division)
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (19): F Bobby Clement, Sr.; F Nic Docs, Sr.; D Andy Szpak, Sr.; F Jordan Szpak, Sr.; D Richard Wakefield, Sr.; F Tyler Williams, Sr.; G Sam Capiccioni, Jr.; F Jacob Glazer, Jr.; F Zara Hudson, Jr.; F Kyle Klein, Jr.; D Josh Mitchell, Jr.; F Nick Price, Jr.; D.J. Saylor, Jr.; D Brad Weaver, Jr.; F Zach Abahazi, So.; F Erich Behler, So.; F Nick Cruz, So.; F Greg Kasper, So.; F Zack Nagel, So.
NEWCOMERS: F Nathan Conner, Fr.; F Tyler Plas, Fr.; F Joe Voelz, Fr.
STRENGTHS: Scoring, depth.
WEAKNESSES: Experience on defense, adjusting to a new coach`s system.
SCOUTING REPORT: Midview is the only team in a new division, having joined the new Blue North with Aurora, Chagrin Falls, Kenston, Mayfield and Solon. The Middies, like most area teams, saw their biggest losses on defense, where starters Eric Wakefield and Stephen Piwowar graduated. Also gone is top scorer Chris Kaspar (39 points). But still around are Jordan Szpak (37 points) and D.J. Saylor (26 points). McKito, who took over for Rob Williams, says he looks for a strong scoring team and the ability to run four lines. "It`s a big adjustment for the kids, having a new coach and different system. We`re doing well in practice, so I think they`ll get the hang of it soon."
NORTH OLMSTED EAGLES
COACH: Tim Murphy
DIVISION: Red East
2006-07 RECORD: 26-6 (7-3 division)
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (11): F Tyler Arendec, Sr.; D Logan Beach, Sr.; F Stephen Bond, Sr.; F Sam DeJoy, Sr.; D Matt Konyesni, Jr.; F Chad Murphy, Jr.; F Ron Soltesz. Jr.; D Chad Cullinan, So.; D Dan McBride, Fr.; F Sean McBride, Fr.
NEWCOMERS: G Zach Laughbaum, Sr.; G Brendan May, Jr.; G Ian Smith, Jr.; D Casey Jones, Fr.; F Mike Konyesni, Fr.
STRENGTHS: Offense with Murphy (95 points) and DeJoy (66 points), depth.
SCOUTING REPORT: Chad Murphy`s father, North Olmsted coach Tim Murphy, says his son was Ohio`s best scorer last season. "I sure haven`t heard of anyone scoring more than Chad." With the area`s No. 5 scorer, Sam DeJoy, also back, Murphy and the Eagles should have another banner offensive year. It`s defense and goaltending that are the question marks. North Olmsted graduated two goalies, Terry Legg and Dan Patterson, and its three finest defensemen. Murphy has moved three forwards to defense, most notably Beach
(36 points). The goalie job belongs to Laughbaum, a move-in from Montana. "I think he`ll do well," Murphy said of Laughbaum. "His play will dictate whether we will be an offense-minded team or a defense-minded one. So far, he`s looking very good."
OLMSTED FALLS BULLDOGS
COACH: Brian Thompson
DIVISION: White West
2006-07 RECORD: 18-11-1 (9-4 division)
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS (13): F Cam Brady, Sr.; F Buddy Gerus, Sr.; D Jason Kolar, Sr.; F Dave Turner, Sr.; D Justin Bement, Jr.; G Pat Butterfield, Jr.; F Mike Sturm, Jr.; D Colin Brady, So.; D Eddie Gerus, So.; F Hayden Jones, So.; F Eric Kolar, So.; F Ryan Petitti, So.; F Nick Riolo, So.
NEWCOMERS: F Cory Daugherty, Fr.; F Craig Kramer, Fr.; D Max Norman, Fr.
STRENGTHS: Scoring, goaltending.
WEAKNESS: Depth, especially on defense.
SCOUTING REPORT: Olmsted Falls again has its top scorers back with Buddy Gerus
(65 points), Turner (43 points) and Kolar (32 points). The inexperience this season is on defense, where the Bulldogs must find depth and a complement to Kolar. "It`s the complete opposite of last year," Thompson said. "The defense was where our experience was last year. This year, it`s with the forwards." The Bulldogs still have Kolar and goalie Patrick Butterfield, who gave up 2.3 goals per game and stopped more than 90 percent of his chances, so the possibility of another division title is there.
Chad Murphy, North Olmsted, Jr.
Richie Baker, Elyria Catholic, Sr.
Buddy Gerus, Olmsted Falls, Sr.
Sam DeJoy, North Olmsted, Sr.
Michael Dillon, Avon Lake, Sr.
Jason Kolar, Olmsted Falls, Sr.
Logan Beach, North Olmsted, Sr.
Scott Shaffer, Avon Lake, Sr.
Zach Hahn, Bay, Sr.
Brad Moore, Elyria Catholic, Sr.
Pat Butterfield, Olmsted Falls, Jr.
Kevin Figueira, Bay, Jr.
Rocky River Tournament, Friday-Sunday: The big kickoff to the season for local hopefuls Bay, Midview and Olmsted Falls.
St. Charles Tournament, Friday-Sunday: One of the state`s best gatherings. North Olmsted swept this one last year at Chiller North in Columbus.
North Coast League Tournament, Dec. 10-13: Elyria Catholic hosts. The Panthers knocked off Red North member Lake Catholic to, but couldn`t do the same to defending state champion Padua in the championship game.
Benedictine Holiday Classic, Dec. 14-16: Olmsted Falls joins Avon Lake and defending champion North Olmsted this year for this seven-team tourney in Euclid.
Southwestern Conference Tournament, Jan. 19-21: The championship on Martin Luther King Day is usually a barn burner. North Olmsted, the host school, won it last season.
- Steve Byrne Â Â Â