HOCKEY: Despite Returning Star Players, Saline Returns to the Ice with a Young Team
Ordinarily, when you return your starting goalie and your top two scoring forwards, you might expect that your hockey team has high expectations.
But while goale Tyler Schroeder and forwards Mateo Idiiapaolo and Blake Woodrel are great pieces to build around, this year’s Saline varsity ice hockey team is a very young squad.
Nowhere is the team younger than on defense, where Owen Warner is the only senior, Chris Thornell is the only junior and the rest are sophomores.
“Our top guys can go with anyone in the league. Mateo and Blake are two of the best high school hockey players in Michigan. But as you get beyond that top level, we get real young real fast,” said coach Kyle Zagata, behind the bench for his fourth year. “So there’s going to be a lot of learning as we go this year.”
Iadipaolo scored 20 goals and had a team-leading 47 points last year for the Hornets. Woodrel scored 16 goals and was second with 45 points.
Both are captains of the Hornets this season, along with forward Aidan Rumohr (10-15-25) and Schroeder (13-3-1, 2.83, .895).
As the coaches expected, the Hornets have struggled to score early in the season, scoring one goal in the loss to Plymouth and one goal in the loss to Pioneer.
The young defense has to play a simple game to get pucks out, so the Hornets aren’t always attacking the opposing blueline with speed.
Still, despite the sluggish offensive start, there are signs Saline should turn up the heat.
Led by the top line of Iadipaolo, Woodrel and Tyson Jacobs, Saline badly outshot Pioneer in their annual Thanksgiving Eve game. Jacobs’ great backcheck caused the turnover that allowed Iadipaolo to catch the Pioneer defense flatfooted and work his magic for Saline’s only goal.
The second line has potential as well. Rumohr has a long frame, good hands and a nose for the net. The slippery Antonio Giacalone returned to the lineup for the second game and demonstrated his ability to be elusive. He scored 11 goals and 16 assists as a freshman. Together with Ethan Phelps, a big forward with soft hands, they could be a great source of secondary scoring.
Beyond the top two lines, there’s promise - but they must also find chemistry. Freshman Bryce Sattler has shown speed, skill and awareness. Brahma Sissoko looks meant for the power-forward role. Johnny Iadipalo shows skill and has good size. Jack Boyle, Cooper Dillon and Jace Woodrel also skate with the varsity Hornet forwards
Saline graduated or lost their big-minute defense from last year.
Owen Warner is the only senior on the squad. He’s a big, strong defenseman who’s already way more involved in the play this season. Junior Chris Thornell, new to the team, has been very physical and aggressive moving the puck up the ice. After that, it’s all sophomores.
Luke Kelley is a tall player with a good stride. He can work the point on the powerplay. Andrew Winters is a small, mobile and smart defenseman who makes a clean pass, gets shots through and can help in transition. Wyatt Church and Landon Phelps are also members of this formidable sophomore class learning on the job.
In goal, the Hornets have been led by three-year varsity player Tyler Schroeder. Not only is he the starting goalie, he’s a vocal leader on the team. Schroeder has been excellent to start the season. Junior Brendan Warwinsky and sophomore Jack Derksen are expected to get their fair share of starts this season.
The Hornets aim to repeat as SEC Red champions - but they’re behind the eight ball early after the 2-1 loss to Pioneer. Still, Saline outshot Pioneer 42-23. It’s not hard to imagine the Hornets can exact revenge on Pioneer when they meet again.
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