Hockey progresses through rough season


Holden Green

OPRF Hockey has gotten off to a disastrous 4-17 start

Calvin Roe, Staffer

OPRF hockey is showing they are no longer complacent with mediocrity, having joined the highly competitive Scholastic Hockey League at both the varsity and JV level this season.

The Scholastic Hockey League (SHL) is commonly regarded as Illinois’ best hockey conference, with thirteen out of the last fifteen state champions coming from the league.

“We knew we would have challenges the first year,” says OPRF’s head varsity coach Dave Dyson. “But it was ultimately decided that playing at a faster pace against better competition was what was best for the program and the development of our individual players.”

While there are positives to joining a tougher and more competitive league in regards to player development, with the switch came OPRF’s worst record in recent history.

As of Jan. 22, the Huskies are at the bottom of the league’s standings with a 4-17 record and a -24 goal differential in the third period. “This season we’ve had a couple of third period breakdowns,” says starting goaltender Will DeCaro in a post-game interview. “It’s been a learning lesson of how to play in this league with a lead.”

Although most of the season the Huskies have been outmatched by their competition, the team showed promise in their win over 2018 state champions, the Loyola Academy Ramblers. “It’s hard to expect us to come in year one and beat powerhouses (but) we have been competitive in nearly every game this season,” says Dyson.

Photo by Holden Green
#42 Brett Johnson in a 2-5 loss against York on 12/6

Unlike other sports, such as baseball and softball, hockey travel teams aren’t regulated by IHSA: travel teams can hold practices and games during the high school hockey season. Part of this is due to hockey teams not being school-affiliated, but being regarded as clubs. Over the years travel teams have built a reputation for having more elite programs than high school teams, pulling players away from their high school.

“I chose to play travel hockey for a AAA (travel) team because of the better exposure to high level colleges and junior colleges,” says sophomore Luka Lisnic, who decided to play travel hockey this season instead of playing for OPRF. “OPRF, especially in the current state, would severely reduce the exposure to junior league and NCAA scouts.”

However, Dyson still sees OPRF hockey as a connector to higher-level hockey after high school. “We have a demonstrable track record of getting players ready for the next level with 11 players from the last few years currently playing juniors or ACHA college hockey,” he says.

Another reason why some players stay loyal and chose high school hockey over travel, especially at OPRF, is because of the opportunity to play with and in front of their high school classmates. “I chose high school hockey over travel because I enjoy seeing all my teammates at school,” says sophomore first-year varsity player Callum Dickell. “It gives you the opportunity to become friends with people you wouldn’t have become friends with if not for hockey.”

Dickell is also a sophomore, one of eight on the varsity roster. By the time the group are seniors, the Huskies hope to have fully adjusted to their new league.

“We are already getting key contributions at all positions on varsity from sophomore players,” says Dyson. “The year of battle-hardening against stronger, older players is setting us up for a ton of success over the next few years.”