By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
ODENTON, MD — Owen Lepak has been racking up the miles this season starting his junior hockey career.
A Clarkston native, Lepak began the 2023-24 season with the Youngstown (Ohio) Phantoms, a member of the United States Hockey League, the highest level of juniors in the country. He then found himself with the Maryland Black Bears of the North American Hockey League, one notch down the development ladder from the USHL and a Phantoms affiliate.
“I spent four weeks with Youngstown during their preseason and it was so fun, but they had two solid older goalies,” Lepak said. “If all goes good this year, hopefully I can get back to Youngstown.”
For Lepak, who turns 18 on Feb. 20, playing AAA youth hockey the past couple years for HoneyBaked, Little Caesars and the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies helped mold him to be junior hockey-ready.
Youngstown drafted Lepak in the fifth round (68th overall) of the 2023 USHL Draft. He also won a state title with HoneyBaked and Little Caesars and made it to the national championship game with Little Caesars.
“I would say on the ice (last season), I was just trying to get better every day and play every game like it was the biggest game of my life,” said Lepak. “Off the ice, I just tried to push myself in workouts and in the summer, especially, I tried to get stronger and work on my strength.”
Through the end of January in 14 games with the Black Bears, Lepak had compiled a 9-4-1 record with a 1.83 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage, and two shutouts.
Lepak said that hockey has long been a passion of his.
“I started when I was really young because my brother Kaleb played high school hockey,” said Lepak. “Then I switched to goalie when I was about 10, which seemed to work. I ran track and played baseball and soccer, but hockey was always my No. 1.”
School wise, Lepak went to school in West Bloomfield through fourth grade and then came to Andersonville Elementary for fifth grade. For his ninth and 10th grade years, Lepak attended Total Package Hockey during the pandemic and the last two years has been online.
“I really like the food in Clarkston,” laughed Lepak. “Definitely made some cool friends and memories. My favorite teacher ever was Mr. (Gary) Amick at Andersonville. He was amazing.”
The son of Kevin and Becky, Lepak also has three older siblings, Kaleb, Ellery and Francy.
Looking ahead on the ice, Lepak has attainable goals he is working to accomplish.
“In the short term, I want to start playing a little better,” he said. “Some long-term goals are to win a championship here in Maryland and go to Youngstown and then (NCAA) Division I.”
PHOTO: Owen Lepak is developing his game in goal this season with the NAHL’s Maryland Black Bears. Photo: James Harding