Walleye forward Alden Hirschfeld traces the opportunity to play for his hometown professional team back to his senior year at Northview High School.
The Sylvania native had a breakout year as a captain for the Wildcats in 2005-06 when Hirschfeld found his scoring touch and confidence.
Hirschfeld still holds the school record for most goals in a season with 64. He also had 35 assists for 99 points as he led Northview to the state title game. He was named Mr. Hockey Ohio, an award given to the top prep player in the state.
“That was the start of everything,” Hirschfeld said. “That really helped me decide to keep playing hockey after high school. I thought I could go on and play college hockey. Through that year and the team being as successful as we were and the achievements I had gave me the opportunity to continue playing. So I'd say it definitely influenced me.”
Hirschfeld, who is in his second pro season, is tied for third on the team in scoring. Hirschfeld has scored two goals and has dished out eight assists. He has played in all 18 games and has 10 points.
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At Northview, Hirschfeld scored two goals in the state championship game but the Wildcats lost 6-5 to Parma Padua Franciscan in overtime.
“I still think back to it,” Hirschfeld said. “At my parents' house, they have plaques and trophies and I reflect back on my senior year in high school. It was disappointing. But it was still a great experience. It's fun to think about how good a team we had.”
Hirschfeld posted 138 goals and 119 assists during his high school career.
Ironically enough, Hirschfeld found himself back at the same rink on Monday where he learned how to skate. He and his Walleye teammates practice at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania where Hirschfeld played his high school games and worked as a manager.
“It's different but it's neat,” he said. “That is where I grew up playing. The guys know I'm from here and they're always joking with me. They can't believe how cold the rink is there. I told them I didn't remember it being this cold when I was a kid.
"It's great to stop in and catch up with everyone for a bit. It was fun.”
Hirschfeld and his Walleye teammates have not experienced much enjoyment on the ice lately.
Toledo's record has fallen to 5-10-3 with five straight losses and the Walleye have lost nine of their last 10. Although they did pick up two points with two overtime losses during the rough stretch, including a 6-5 overtime loss at Evansville last Saturday.
“We can't panic,” Hirschfeld said. “That doesn't do any good. I think the guys are more anxious to get to the next game. Everyone wants to get out of this slump so badly.”
Toledo hosts Cincinnati (12-7-1) today at 7:15 p.m. The Cyclones are second in the Walleye's North Division with 25 points. Toledo is last in the 13-team Eastern Conference with 13 points.
“It's been a rough two weeks,” Hirschfeld said. “But you can't be negative. We're focused on Cincinnati. We want to put it behind us and get off to a fresh start.”
Hirschfeld said he believes the Walleye have the talent but have been too inconsistent.
“We have a very good team and we've shown glimpses of what we can do when we are playing our best,” Hirschfeld said. “We're focusing on working hard and simplifying the game as much as possible.”
He said the team must put together a full 60 minute effort each night.
“You want to win every game, but it's a long season and the guys can't get too down,” Hirschfeld said.
He said the players are excited to have three home games this week. Toledo hosts Evansville on Friday and Saturday.
“Playing at home is a big advantage,” he said. “You don't have to travel and you're in your normal routine. I think it will be a good thing for us.”
The team's last win came against Evansville at the Huntington Center on Nov. 23. The Walleye are in a stretch where they play the IceMen (12-4-3), who lead the North, in five of the next six games. Toledo is 1-2-1 against Evansville.
“It's good to know where we match up with them and how we can be successful,” Hirschfeld said. “It will be physical, intense games.”
Hirschfeld said the Walleye's recent woes have put a damper on his first season with his hometown team.
“Hopefully we'll get through this rough patch and win more games,” he said. “But in terms of playing and seeing my family and friends, it's been awesome.”
Hirschfeld said like many in that community, he has been a fan of the Detroit Red Wings since he was a youngster.
“That was the team I watched and wanted to play for,” he said. “So it's pretty cool to be in their organization.”
Hirschfeld said when he was 3 he would stare at the TV when the Wings came on and would cry when it was turned off. It was then that he started taking lessons from local instructor Monica Jablonski, the wife of former Toledo Blades legend Greg Jablonski.
“She was the first person to teach me how to skate. She was the nicest lady,” Hirschfeld said. “I always wanted to use a puck, but she made me work on skating.”
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said Hirschfeld has has the ability to play at the next level.
“He is a very smart hockey player,” Vitucci said.
After earning three letters at Northview, Hirschfeld played four years at Miami University. He was a team captain and helped lead the RedHawks to a CCHA championship in 2011. He turned pro in 2012, and split his first pro season between Providence of the AHL and its ECHL team, the South Carolina Stingrays.
He signed with the Walleye this summer.
“The support from the fans is amazing,” Hirschfeld said.
“They get so excited and they like to talk to me about community.”