OFA Hockey Building From Back, Forward
BY DAVE SHEA
Defense wins championships.
OFA will be looking to draw strength from that premise entering the 2019-20 Northern Conference Hockey season.
The Devils will be be anchored by a core of returning defenseman and senior goaltender Kelson Hooper who won the WSMA NAC Goaltender of the Year Award after forging a 1.75 goals against average in NAC play last season where: OFA placed third in a close NAC Division II race with an 8-5-0 record, finished with an 11-8-1 overall record and lost to Salmon River 3-2 in overtime in the Section 10 Division II Tournament.
"Kelson is a very athletic goalie. He has played in a lot of pressure packed games and thrived in those games," said OFA Coach Jon Frederick who will guide the team along with Associate Coach Matt Morley and Goaltender Coach Jim Howard Sr.
Hooper will assume the lion's share of the goaltending duties with the graduation of Jacob Ball who played a big role in OFA's championship season of 2018.
Hooper will be backed by sophomore Drew Piercey and freshman Ian Sovie.
The defensive corps will be anchored by four veteran performers in seniors Stephen Morley, who earned Second Team All-NAC honors last season, and Nolan O'Donnell and sophomores Drew Costello and Kaleb Spears. Freshman Gabe Clark rounds out the blue line unit.
"We have a couple of offensive defensemen who can also shut down the opponents and a couple of defensive defensemen who can also create offense in transition," Frederick.
"A couple of our defensemen may also spend time up front as forwards. We have a lot of experience in the back only losing Jake VanHouse from last year."
Reshaping the offense will be a process starting with replacing the scoring leadership provided by NAC Division II MVP Jackson Troiano who finished with 129 career points. Also graduating were: Brock Morley, Alex Barrett, Julian Rufa and Jordan Fennessy.
"We will be looking for scoring by committee with no clear goal scorers established," said Frederick.
Keighan Sias (Jr), Karson LaRose (Jr) and Holden Woods (So) form what the coaches call the "speed line" and Marc Barr (Sr), Derek Barr (So), Drew Mills (Sr) and Tim McLellan (Jr) are returning forwards who will play physical in back checking and along the boards. Harrison Wert (Sr) and promising young prospects in Jack Mills (Fr), Chase Jacobs (So) and Landin McDonald (Fr) round out the forward corps.
Tegan Frederick (7), Trently Lovely (So), Dylan Irvine (Fr), Griffin Wert (Fr) and Nate Woods (8th) will also practice with the team and play in the Ogdensburg Minor Hockey Association.
Captains Marc Barr, Nolan O'Dlonnell, Stephen Morley and Kelson Hooper lead the Devils into a new NAC season on Wednesday hosting Norwood-Norfolk which swept the NAC and Section 10 Division II titles last year. Two days later the Devils will host the new look Brian Wade Jr. Memorial Tournament facing Lancaster Catholic and Sweet Home. Thousand Islands/Alexandria Bay rounds out the field.
"Division II will be very close this year. I believe the division is up for grabs and every team has a chance to be in it this year. Seeding will be important," said Coach Frederick.
"For us it is a process that will have its share of obstacles. The main ingredients will be hard work, resiliency in the face of obstacles, team chemistry, tough D in our own end and scoring by committee."