‘Brotherhood’ of Summit hockey seniors hopes to make a statement en route to state playoffs
BRECKENRIDGE — For the dozen seniors on this winter’s Summit High School varsity hockey team, they’ve been waiting for this year, this opportunity since they started skating together as kids.
At the core of the 2019-20 Tigers’ leadership group, goaltender Jake Mallory has a focus as sharp as a skate’s edge when he speaks about the team’s goals for the season. This group of seniors is confident it can return the Tigers program to the playoffs for the first time in years. You don’t need to ask head coach Joey Otsuka, Mallory or any of the other seniors twice.
“We haven’t placed in a competitive spot in playoffs for I think a little over a decade,” Mallory said, arms and pads crossed over his goaltending gear. “So what we are trying to bring to the table this year is that competitive nature, that disciplined nature to be able to win games consistently.
“This relationship, this brotherhood is off the ice, too. And I think the big thing moving toward the end of the year is that consistency piece and mental discipline piece.”
The Tigers hockey brotherhood this season also will feature one girl: senior forward Sophia Fondl. Heading into his second year at the helm, Otsuka said Fondl is an adept skater who can be at the right place at the right time on the ice to score goals. She did so last season before an ACL tear kept her from skating until just last month.
Fondl figures into a super deep group of offensive players for the Tigers, as Otsuka is confident Summit can play well out on the wing deep into four lines. That group of wingers includes the team’s first named captain, Isaac Eland, the player Otsuka said quietly sacrificed his own social time to dial-in Summit’s focus during preseason workouts.
“Being a high school kid, it’s tough to figure out life sometimes,” Otsuka said. “But Isaac does a good job making sure everyone is on the same page, staying grounded, not too high or low. And he never mentions it, and that’s the sign of a true leader.”
On the defensive end, Summit will look to senior Nick Davis and underclassmen Zach Carleton and Rudy Burki to not only spearhead efforts this year, but also to cultivate younger talent to fill roles in coming seasons. Otsuka said Davis worked diligently through the offseason to redefine his game and skills as a defenseman as well as his strength and endurance.
In net, Otsuka’s squad will benefit from having two capable netminders in Mallory and Marco Vogelbacher of Fraser. Where Mallory is a more traditional goalie, Vogelbacher brings an unorthodox style between the pipes, which relies on his standout athleticism. Otsuka said the Tigers likely will go with the hot hand throughout the season, but the good news is the competitive goalie duo gives Summit options to matchup against opponents in games and looks for Summit’s offensive players to shoot against in practice. One of those offensive players is Mallory’s brother Caleb, who will be a vital part of the Tigers offense.
Another senior leader Otsuka feels speaks to the ethos of this team is Max Bonenberger. The multisport star is the fastest skater on the Tigers team, able to play out on the wing or at center. More importantly, though, Otsuka describes Bonenberger as a “quiet warrior,” the kind of player who helps the team stay centered moment to moment in an oft-violent sport that can descend into machismo.
Dec. 7: at Heritage, L, 8-2
Dec. 11: vs. Steamboat Springs, W, 6-3
Dec. 14: at Coronado, W, 6-2
Dec. 18: at Battle Mountain, L, 4-1
Dec. 21: vs. Glenwood Springs, W, 3-2
Jan. 4: at Mullen, L, 2-5
Jan. 10: vs. Crested Butte, W, 5-1
Jan. 11: vs. Crested Butte, W, 6-3
Jan. 17: at Palmer, W, 6-0
Jan. 18: vs. Aspen, W, 6-2
Jan. 25: Chaparral, 5 p.m.
Jan. 31: at Steamboat Springs, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7: at Glenwood Springs, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 8: at Aspen, 6:15 p.m.
Feb. 12: vs. Battle Mountain, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 14: at Liberty, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 15: vs. Woodland Park, 3 p.m.
Feb. 22: vs. Standley Lake, 6 p.m.
As the season progresses, Otsuka and the senior leaders expect more younger players to complement the Tigers veterans. Wing Ranger Stone figures to be one of them once he bounces back from an illness that has kept him out of early action.
Then there’s freshman Finn Theriault. Otsuka and seniors such as Eland and Davis sung Theriault’s praises at practice Wednesday at Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge as the Tigers are hopeful they’ll get production from Theriault early and often.
“There’s a lot of times I’m training with other college athletes or college-bound athletes in summertime here for stick and puck,” Otsuka said. “And I’d say every time we came out here and worked drills — very, very specific items of the game — Finn was out here doing the same things on the opposite side. That’s a testament to his work ethic.”
Summit expects production from a few other freshman as well, including Hank Cash, who Otsuka said brings the same work ethic to his position at center.
Whoever is out there on the ice for the Tigers, Otsuka and the seniors aren’t shying away from putting playoff pressure on themselves. Why not? By the numbers, this is a special year for Summit hockey, as the team has a junior varsity for the first time ever, a school record 38 players in total. And the seniors are motivated to put forth a season that helps them forget last year’s 5-13-1 campaign.
“We’ve got sort of a chip on our shoulder to say, ‘Hey, look. We’re back. And guess what? We’ve been training,'” Otsuka said. “We’ve got investment in what we want to do. And the things we want to do, we are going to do well.”
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