Hockey team off to promising start

It is head coach Randy Schlesinger’s first year at the helm of the OPRF varsity hockey team, and they have taken many people by surprise.

“It’s really an ‘us against the world’ mentality in here because of so many naysayers from around the league and from within our own school. It’s fun to see them sitting in the stands watching us and we’re out here competing in the way we knew we would be,” says Schlesinger.

Schlesinger attributes a large amount of success to the pace the team plays at. “We’re a skating program. It’s about tempo. Shift changes matter,” he says. “You can make your team a lot faster with the right puck control and right shift change decisions, and there’s nothing the other team can do about that.”

Another new aspect for the team this year is having fans back in attendance, and the students have come in full force. “They are the reason why we win home games,” says senior captain David Andolina. “Teams come into our stadium and they’re not ready. It’s the ultimate home rink advantage. We are able to steal a lot of home games solely because of our fans.”

“It’s everything. The students love the team, the team loves the students,” says Schlesinger. “It doesn’t just help us at home. We just had a series of road games, and the thought of coming back to play in front of the fans helped us in those games.”

The team is off to a good start, led by Andolina, who scored 20 goals in the first 12 games. Andolina credited some of the success to the new coaching staff. “The new coaching staff has done a great job instilling a new identity into the program. We’ve had a lot of coaching changes over my years on varsity, but I feel like we’re finally starting to build a culture of hard work and doing the small things to make us better and better.”

“I think the season is going pretty well so far,” says senior defensive captain Michael DeCaro. “We’ve got a winning record and we’ve had big wins against teams like Barrington in the league. They were our first league win this year and getting the first win under our belt was really important for confidence and morale moving forward.”

The varsity team is also set to play three games against Fenwick this season. But, according to Coach Schlesinger, the team is staying focused on the here and now. “These guys don’t talk about it at all,” he said. “Yes, Fenwick is the rival. Yes, we don’t really care for them, but it’s not an overwhelming thing that’s dominating our thoughts.”

The team had some disappointing losses last year against Fenwick, and emotions still run high. “I think everyone has a chip on their shoulder from our losses against them last year, and that’ll motivate us,” said DeCaro. “Everyone has been looking forward to the series all year and we’ll be ready come our first game against them.”

With hockey talent and community interest on the rise, Schlesinger is excited about the future of the hockey organization at OPRF. “There’s a lot of good hockey talent coming up.”