By Wendi Reardon Price
Clarkston News Sports Writer
It wasn’t the ending of the season they had set as a goal as the Wolves finished the winter season with a 6-1 loss to Hartland in the MHSAA Ice Hockey Division 1 Region 3 game last Wednesday.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Clarkston Varsity Hockey Head Coach Nathan Bryer. “It’s not the way as a group we wanted to go out. I don’t think the score depicted how the game went. It was a closer game then the score led it to be. It is a championship hockey team. They have all the qualities of a championship team. They are deep at every position. They have high end players at every position. We knew we were out for a big test.”
The Eagles scored with eight minutes left in the first period and tacked on two more goals by the time it ended to lead, 3-0.
They scored one goal on a power play in the second period to continue their lead.
Junior forward Owen Croston put the Wolves on the board with his goal with 11 minutes left in the game before Hartland scored two more goals.
Bryer shared the underclassmen can take away from the game the same as last year’s regional game against Hartland.
“That is the level we need to play at,” he said, adding Hartland beat them last year in the regional semifinals and went on to win the Division 2 State Championship. “I fully expect Hartland to make a very deep playoff run again this year. We just keep learning that is the level we need to play at and we need to compete at every single day if we want to be a championship team. At the end of the day we set out every November our goal is to win a state championship. We didn’t accomplish it so back to the drawing board.”
The Wolves finished the season with a 21-3-2 overall record and 8-1-1 in the OAA Red.
“It was an awesome season,” Bryer said. “As coaches and players, I have said it before, it is one of the closest groups I have ever been a part of, playing and coaching. There is a lot to be celebrated. We are the winningest team ever. We haven’t won an OAA championship in a long time. We had guys break individual scoring records. There is a ton of positives. We have also put Clarkston Hockey back on the map. We made a splash this year and we started going in the right direction so we are excited about it.”
Senior Devon Collis had 28 goals for the season, for a total of 50 over the last three seasons for all time leading scorer.
Sophomore Ron Wade led the team with 35 assists during the season and had 23 goals, putting him at the most points in a season with 58. Sophomore goalie Calum Hartner had 16 wins with a .889 save percentage.
“It’s awesome,” he said about guiding this set of Clarkston players, adding it’s why he and assistant coaches Vinny Post and Adam Larkin, Clarkston High School graduates do it. “We want to give as much back to the game as the game gave to us when we were going through our playing careers. It’s awesome and it’s very rewarding. At the end of the day we are in it to give kids a chance to play hockey and enjoy playing hockey. I think that is the number one thing. It’s got to be fun. You don’t play a sport because it’s not fun. You play it because you enjoy doing it. The first two years we were here we didn’t win much. It was refreshing to win.”
The team graduates seven seniors – Collis, Blake Botterill, Marek Drennan, Ryan Lemker, Dutch Snyder, Theo Walker and Tyler Wilford.
“They helped us turn the corner,” said Bryer. “We went from an just an average team to a team hopefully is in the conversation to win state championships every year. It also helps encourage players to come play for us. They see the success those guys were able to have and the numbers they put up. This senior class is a special one. Most of them are three year guys on our team so they have really grown into adults and high end hockey players. It’s been awesome.”
By Wendi Reardon Price