Walsh hockey team working for strong playoff run
CUYAHOGA FALLS — Walsh Jesuit High School hockey head coach Pat McKendry said his team “has certainly exceeded” all expectations coming into the year.
The Warriors are 17-13-4 overall and 7-1-2 in the inaugural season of the Great Lakes Hockey League.
“We finished at the top of the league — in a tie for the No. 1 seed with University School — and we lost in the semifinals of our league playoffs to St. Ignatius, 3-2. That was a fantastic game,” he said. “But I would say we exceeded everyone’s expectations in the way that we played. Much of it is due to the will of our seniors. We have 10 seniors who are pretty special. These guys have worked hard.”
On Feb. 15, Walsh won in the second round of the Kent Division I district playoffs, defeating Cleveland Heights High School 6-2.
“We came in, got the job done and moved on to the next round,” McKendry said. “Everything we have talked about lately as a team is just about being 1-0. That’s all we care about in the playoffs, being 1-0. Every game is a new matchup.”
Next up, Walsh will take on Chagrin Falls Kenston High School Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. at the Kent State University Ice Arena.
“Kenston is a tough team with a winning record. They’ve won a ton of games,” McKendry said. “They are high powered, and it’s going to be a real tough game. The key for this week is preparing for a team that will give us a battle.”
The coach said he likes the way his team is competing, but he believes his players can take things up another notch.
“I don’t know if we’re at our peak. I would hope we would have another gear to go,” he said. “But we are certainly playing well. We’ve been playing well all season long, to be honest with you.”
Leading the team in scoring this season is senior forward Jack Huscroft.
“Jack is the big-time ‘x factor’ for our team,” the coach said. “He is the engine that really drives our team.”
Another key factor in the team’s success this season, McKendry said, has been the play of goaltender Jamie Studer.
“He is our rock,” the coach said. “He is there to bail us out of everything, and he does a fantastic job of doing it. He does one heck of a job for us back there and, with all due respect to all the other goalies in the state, it’s tough to find a better one than him. It really is. Jamie is the real deal.”
Studer is the captain of this year’s team and the alternate captains are Huscroft and Chris Gaul.
“Chris is a senior forward, and he has scored some timely goals for us,” McKendry said. “I look for him to continue to put the puck in the net for us as we continue our stretch.”
The coach said he also believes Walsh has the state’s best high school defensive player in senior Colin Lippincott.
“Colin certainly controls the game for us,” he said. “We are very, very fortunate to have him on our squad. He has been awesome for us this year.”
According to McKendry, Walsh’s biggest strength this year is how they have stayed together as a team.
“We’ve had a saying this year that, ‘You are either with us or you are against us.’ That’s been our motto, and our guys have embraced that mentality,” he said. “That has really built the togetherness around our team, which is impenetrable, in my opinion. This is my 10th season coaching the team, and I have not had more fun or been around a better group of guys. I can say that with 100 percent honesty.”
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