Anthony Wayne s goal of defending its Northwest Hockey Conference Blue Division title begins in goal where a trio of gifted goalies gives the Generals a commanding edge.
Anthony Wayne cruised to last season s crown with a 10-0-0 record.
We were undefeated last year and we didn t lose much, said AW coach Dave Faulkner. We have three goalies and I have a lot of confidence in all three of them. I think the three best goalies in the Blue Division are on our team.
Sophomore Nolan Schreiber is the Generals No. 1 goaltender after earning team MVP honors as a freshman. He went 10-2-1 with a 2.82 goals-against average.
He is a phenomenal talent, Faulkner said. He is as good as anybody in town at the sophomore level.
Senior Ryan Tighe (4-2-1, 2.90 GAA) has steadily improved in goal, while sophomore Dan Koralewski also is solid.
Faulkner has 14 returnees, including his two highest scoring forwards. Greg Dybala, a junior, tallied 19 goals with 27 assists. Sophomore Zak Seipel collected 45 points (24 goals and 21 assists).
Sophomore Matt Hershey leads Fremont Ross after posting a 1.70 GAA in league play as a freshman. Springfield has senior goalie Corey Lapointe back after he made a division-high 285 saves and had a .869 save percentage in the league last year.
The Generals were the unanimous pick in the preseason coaches poll. Here is a look at the six teams in the Blue Division, listed in order of predicted finish:
Anthony Wayne (17-5-2 overall, 10-0-0 NWC) is one of the few teams in the lower divisions that has enough players to field a junior varsity. Coach Faulkner has 30 players in his system and only two are seniors.
Junior forward Jordan Rees and junior defenseman Will Miller are back after missing time with injuries last year.
Faulkner has six players returning that earned all-league honors. Zach Tansel, Nick Perkins, Hank Strong, and Denny Ankenbrandt will be key contributors.
Seipel and Dybala have grown considerably and both should have big seasons, Faulkner said. Seipel set the school freshman scoring record.
But Tighe and forward Wilson Bales are the only two seniors on the team. Faulkner has ramped up his nondivision schedule with games against White Division teams Whitmer and Clay.
Fremont Ross (17-8-0, 8-2-0 Blue Division) has strong goaltending, solid offense and depth.
Hershey earned first team all-conference honors after posting an 8-2 record and .921 save percentage as a freshman.
Senior captain Jake Pfotenauer was the team s second-leading scorer (23 G, 17 A) a year ago with 40 points in 24 games.
Sophomores Tyler Hull (13 G, 21 A), Chad Channing (14, 13) and Trevor Langel (7, 10) also have shown the ability to produce.
But coach Eric Theller lost the MVP of the Blue Division, E.J. Theller, to graduation. The fifth-year coach also lost nine other seniors.
Larry Butch Leon enters his 30th season at the helm of the Springfield program, but he said his players are hungry for some respect this year.
The Blue Devils (8-17-1, 5-5-0) have strong senior leadership with 10 upperclassmen. They should also get consistently good goaltending and have plenty of team speed.
Lapointe started in 25 of Springfield s 26 games, making 774 stops and posting an .855 save percentage.
Senior forward Jake Osmialowski notched 44 points with 17 goals and 27 assists last season. Senior Brian Pautz, who plays both forward and defense, scored 14 goals with 15 assists last year.
Defenseman Devin Lewis, a senior transfer from St. John s, is a steady playmaker, according to Leon.
The strength of Matt Oliver s Start Spartans (13-11-0, 5-5-0) starts along the blueline with senior defensemen John Kolhoff and Dave Vanderpol.
We have the two best defensemen in the division, Oliver said of his captains. Those two have great leadership.
Kolhoff (40 points) scored 19 goals and Vanderpol (23) tallied 10 markers.
Senior Phil Hock is back between the pipes after posting a 3.00 GAA in division play. Hock allowed 33 goals (.870 SVP).
Senior left winger/center Ian Ulrich, an assistant captain, finished with 25 points in 24 games.
This team has great discipline, Oliver said. We have a young team with six freshmen, four sophomores and four juniors. It might be kind of a slow start, but by the end of the season, we ll be up at the top of the division.
While Ottawa Hills (1-21-2, 0-9-1) won just one game last season, that is the same number of players that the Green Bears lost to graduation this year.
We have much more experience, said OH coach Tom Mc-Kinch, who enters his fifth season.
Seniors Casson Murra (23 points), Ted Nichols (19), Dan Zyndorf (first season), and Ben Gibbs (7) look to turn things around.
McKinch said his overall numbers are up to 19 players and he is looking for his junior class to step up and make an impact.
We re looking to surprise some teams this year, McKinch said.
Lake (1-9-1) looks to be facing a rebuilding year under first-year coach Joe Weissenberger, who was an assistant at Perrysburg.
Weissenberger has 17 varsity players with four seniors. Center Matt Winkle is a three-year starter and a senior captain. Tommy Duris, another senior center, has started three years on the varsity.
Sophomore goalie Taylor Barteck played as a freshman. Sophomore defenseman Josh Hillebrand is much improved and seems to be everywhere, according to Weissenberger
I m a realist. We re rebuilding, but hopefully we ll soon be reloading like Lake did in the 80s, said Weissenberger, who played for the Flyers. They are improving every day. We re very young with all sophomores and freshmen. The goal is to get the building blocks there.