Buckeyes among teams to beat in Free Press division
Boys hockey team benefitting from chemistry, offense
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This article was published 06/12/2019 (1276 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s a good time to be a Buckeye.
Last month, the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes varsity football team took home the school’s first CTV Bowl championship since 2005. Meanwhile, the boys hockey team was off to a scorching start for the 2019-20 Winnipeg High School Hockey League season.
At press time, the Buckeyes had won eight of their first 11 games, six in regulation for a full three points and another two in overtime for two points in the standings. Ahead of a Dec. 10 game against Collège Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau, the Buckeyes had 22 points, good for fifth place in the 15 team Winnipeg Free Press Division.
“We have a nice core of returning guys, with a very young team,” said head coach Gordon Fritzsche, adding that nearly half the team is in Grade 10, with one Grade 9 player also on the roster.
The Buckeyes, who are without a consistent home rink following the closure of the Terry Sawchuk Arena, started the season on a 6-1 tear before slowing a little through November.
“One thing that happens when you’re one of the top teams is you get the other team’s best every night,” Fritzsche said. “Lately, we’ve seen some teams come out and play with a lot of intensity. We won’t get any easy nights this year. Ultimately, that’s good, because you want to keep pushing your guys.”
“We’re not really scared of any other teams, we know we can be the best,” said Aaron Neilson, a Grade 12 left-winger and assistant captain who has been with the team since Grade 9.
“He’s the first time we’ve had a four-year player,” Fritzsche said of Neilson, who leads the Buckeyes in scoring with eight goals and 14 assists at press time. “He’s developed into one of the best players in our league. He’s a guy who puts in the time on his own. He just loves the game.”
With a handful of players in their final year of high school, the goal for the Buckeyes is to make a run at the division title.
“The main goal is the championship, maybe win a couple tournaments on the way there,” Neilson said. “We have good chemistry. We all get along really good, which I think translates well on the ice.”
“We all have our eyes on that,” added Zach Yarechewski, a Grade 12 defenseman who has been with the team since Grade 10. “It would be a dream come true.”
A self-described “stay at home defenseman,” Yarechewski had six assists in his first 11 games of the season, and only two penalty minutes.
“He’s a really smart, both academically and on the ice,” Fritzsche said. “He’s blossomed into a guy we rely on in situations, who we know will do his job.”
Both Yarechewski and Neilson said that the key to the Buckeyes success so far this season has been offense.
“We’ve definitely put the puck in the net at a higher rate than past years,” agreed Fritzsche. “But I still think we could do things to score even more.”
Where the Buckeyes have come up lacking in recent games is playing a solid, all-around defensive game.
“Our team is learning that defense is all six guys on the ice, and we haven’t quite figured that out,” Fritzsche said. “We’ve talked, from day one, (about) developing a particular identity. We want teams to know us as a strong forechecking team, and one that plays with a lot of speed. When we play in that way, we’re successful but consistency in bringing that every night isn’t there yet. The nights we’re not successful is when our feet aren’t moving.”
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112