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Published: Thursday, 12/7/2006

Sidelines: Bedford looks to repeat

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Bedford looks to defend its NHC White Division title with top players including (from left) Lukas Hayden, Chase Krider, goaltender Lucas Fournier, Danny Hopkins, and Andy Backus. Bedford looks to defend its NHC White Division title with top players including (from left) Lukas Hayden, Chase Krider, goaltender Lucas Fournier, Danny Hopkins, and Andy Backus.
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Mules have scoring power; Clay, Whitmer also contenders

The ability of the Bedford Mules to kick the offense into high gear gives them a leg up in the Northwest Hockey Conference White Division this season.

Bedford looks to defend its championship with some impressive firepower. The Mules have six of the top 14 scorers returning in the NHC White Division. Bedford posted an 8-2-0 record a year ago.

We lost some major offensive fire power, but we have a lot back, Bedford coach Randy Menchaca said. We re young. But we have some skill players that can bury the puck. It would be real nice to repeat. But I d like to be realistic. I imagine we should finish in the top three.

Menchaca, who is in his third season at Bedford, lost his leading scorer to graduation, but the cupboard is far from bare.

Sophomore Jesse Bachli tied for second in the division in scoring with 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 10 games as a freshman. Captain Danny Hopkins was tied for third with 19 (7 G, 12 A) and junior Justin Snyder finished tied for sixth with 14 points.

Junior goaltender Lucas Fournier takes over full time in net after giving up just 1.30 goals per game last season.

After finishing runner up in 2004-05, Bedford was predicted to finish fifth last year. But the Mules rattled off six straight league wins to claim the White crown.

But Clay and Whitmer, the teams that won the previous two White Division titles, are expected to contend again.

Bedford junior goaltender Lucas Fournier guards the net against Garryt Kujawa during practice. 
Bedford junior goaltender Lucas Fournier guards the net against Garryt Kujawa during practice.
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The Eagles, who won the title in 2003-04, have three productive lines that should keep them in every game.

The Panthers, who won the division in 2004-05, have 15 letter winners back and should also be able to score consistently.

Here is a look at the White Division listed in predicted order of finish based on a preseason coaches poll:

Bedford (13-10-1 overall, 8-2-0 NHC) has 16 total varsity players led by captain Hopkins and his assistants Chase Krider, Luke Hayden and Andy Backus.

We have some quality guys coming back, Menchaca said. Our goaltending is young yet.

Seniors Gary Kujawa and Austin Trychel are very tough kids, he said.

Hopkins leads by example and should help youngsters such as Snyder continue to develop.

We re looking for a lot of leadership from our captains, Menchaca said. It s just a matter of getting into a rhythm with our skill players because they can bury the puck.

Clay (11-12-0, 5-5-0) finished third in the White last year and has 13 returning starters.

Frank Butler, who is in his second year at the helm of the Eagle program, also welcomes back six seniors. Butler has 25 total players on the varsity this season.

Being able to roll three forward lines at any giving time throughout the game is a huge benefit, Butler said. Scoring should be well balanced this year, taking some weight off the shoulders of sophomore Jerry Murray, who led the team in scoring last season.

Joining Murray, who is a 5-foot-7, 140-pound center, on the offensive end is junior Nick Shousher, a 5-11, 170-pound winger.

But the team s best attribute may be a defensive unit withjunior Drew Burns and sophomore Michael Balogh leading six strong defensemen.

Second-year goaltender Nick Tippery is improving every day, while sophomore E.J. Lemay is waiting in the wings.

We could have a successful year if team chemistry develops and it looks like it s taking hold, Butler said. Staying focused throughout the year is the team s first priority. Reinforcing a positive attitude, discipline, hard work, and the team concept should lead to a successful season.

Whitmer (13-11-1, 6-4-0) has 20 varsity players back, including five seniors and 15 letter winners.

Panther coach Andrew Craig, who is in his second season, said he is pleased with a solid core of returning players and is excited about some of the new players. Craig said the players have adjusted to his new system.

The first-year problems are over and the players are buying into a different style and system of coaching, Craig said. We re more experienced at all of the positions. Our biggest strength will be the whole team playing as one unit.

The offense will be paced by junior forwards Steve Dilorenzo and Derek Soldner. Senior Matt Reash is Whitmer s top defenseman and sophomore goalie Brad Reash is the last line of defense.

We should have a good season, Craig said. Our nonleague schedule is very competitive so we should improve with each game.

With a good work ethic in practice and a willingness to improve on the mistakes, we should be very competitive this season.

Dale Calcamuggio has a 97-92 career record in five years at Perrysburg and may have his strongest goaltending combo in his entire tenure.

The Yellow Jackets (12-16-1, 4-5-1) will be led by sophomore netminders Austin Bella and Chad Kinshaw.

Calcamuggio has 18 varsity players and seven seniors, including top defenseman Adam Hawkins. Sophomore Danny Lopez (17 G, 26 A) and junior Steven Lowe (27 G, 22 A) are the top returning scorers. Senior Shane Piche (11, 16) and junior Kevin Quinn (11, 14) made significant offensive contributions last year.

Calcamuggio said he has solid forwards and four strong defens-emen, but is concerned about the number of players he has this season. He said the team s goal is to win the division and have an above .500 season overall.

The league will be tough and full of excitement, he said.

Consistent offensive production should be the strong suit for Todd Switala s Central Catholic Irish (14-16-0, 4-6-0).

Junior forward Andrew Kolb (28 G, 45 A) and senior Rick Matuszewski (22 G, 38 A) combined for 53 goals last season. Kolb led all scorers in the White Division with 24 points (11, 13) in 10 games, while Matuszewski was fourth (6, 13).

Senior Shane Clark will play both forward and defense. Senior goalie Chris Meyers had an .862 save percentage last season. Junior Alan Clark is a high-end defenseman, according to Switala.

Defensively we are younger and thinner. Alan Clark and Kevin Justen will be solid and junior Mike Matuszewski will log much more ice time this season, Switala said. Chris Meyers will be solid in net and will log all the time. The key will be the leadership of the seniors.

Maumee (11-12-5, 2-7-1) will have a good mix of seasoned upperclassmen and young, growing talent.

Senior Jordan Mahlman was the team s leading scorer with 21 goals and 23 assists in just 27 games last season. Senior forward Nathan Stead and senior defenseman Adam Kaczala earned honorable mention in the NHC last year.

In net, the Panthers have senior goalie Bill Chapman. Chapman posted a 3.10 GAA in 27 games last season and was named to the All-NHC second team.

We have good senior leadership and lots of young players gaining experience, said Maumee coach Bob Reichardt, who is in his sixth season.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.



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