Weekly Feature



2017-12-07 / Sports

Young hockey team looking to grow


Orchard Park’s Ryan Niles picks up the puck in his own zone during a scrimmage against Williamsville East. The Quakers will be a young team this season. 
Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Orchard Park’s Ryan Niles picks up the puck in his own zone during a scrimmage against Williamsville East. The Quakers will be a young team this season. Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The Orchard Park hockey team will have a new look to it this season. The team graduated most of its players from last year’s team.

“We’re pretty young, to be honest,” Orchard Park coach Josh Dannecker said. “It’s a lot of new faces. It’s pretty exciting from that perspective. We have a lot of new guys on the roster.”

The team does have some players back from last season, and those guys will be looked upon to step into larger roles this season, particularly Luke McCloud and Liam Mc- Gowan.

“There are certainly some guys who will step up who played good roles last year,” Dannecker said. “That’s definitely going to happen. Liam McGowan will be one of those guys. Luke McCloud, too. Those guys in particular are faces that saw regular time last year that will be again in the mix this year, hopefully playing more significant roles than last year.”

Another key player this season will be Coleman Jacobs. He’s a senior, but he did not play last season.

“We have one guy who is a senior who didn’t play last year but he’s playing this year in Coleman Jacobs,” Dannecker said. “He’s a big, power forward. He’s a big, strong kid who has lots of skill. I think for us he could be one of those guys who plays a major role for us.”

On defense, the Quakers have also lost quite a few guys. Kyle O’Brien played a bit last year, but he will take on a larger role this season.

“On defense one of the guys who played a little last year and a lot towards the end is Kyle O’Brien,” Dannecker said. “He should be one of those guys who we hear from as well.”

The Quakers relied heavily on goaltender Tom Held last season, but he has since graduated. New starter Pat Finn has suffered a minor thumb injury, but he is backed up by RJ Fasolino and Grant Zell.

“We lost Tommy; he graduated,” Dannecker said. “We’ve got a new goalie. Basically, we have three goalies that are all seniors. Pat Finn, who has been on the team for two years, broke his thumb. He’s had a slow start to the season because of that. We’ll see what happens when he gets back. We have RJ Fasolino and Grant Zell. They’re both seniors as well.”

The depth at goaltending will be key as the forward and defensive groups are both incredibly young and inexperienced.

“I would say our strength right now is we have some good depth at goaltending,” Dannecker said. “That’s probably a strength for us. We have a lot of speed up front. We’re super young on defense. That’s kind of the idea.”

The team has seven sophomores, an unusually high number for the program. The goal is for those guys to develop over the course of the season.

“We have a strong group of sophomores,” Dannecker said. “Their development over the season will add to the guys we have and make it a nice strong, cohesive unit. It will take a little growing to get to that point.”

The team doesn’t have a defined goal for the season. The Quakers will be focused on playing together as a group, learning and growing. The goal is for the team to be better at the end of the season than the beginning.

“We’ll probably struggle early just because we are so young in some key positions,” Dannecker said. “You hope after a while when the season gets going, you hope those guys grow and develop and get to a point where at the end of the year, they’re able to play like juniors.”

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

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