SHS hockey preview: Rounded Tiger team ready to make run
BRECKENRIDGE – Looking up and down his roster, head coach Chris Ruhly sees a glaring difference from years past.
“I can think back to the last five or six years, and every year, I can pick out that guy we’ve had to really lean on,” he said. “And we don’t have that guy this year.”
Although, that’s not necessarily a problem for the Summit High hockey team.
Sure, the Tigers’ bench is short – just 16 rostered skaters, barely enough for three full lines. And they lost a lot of scoring from last season – all-state forward Shamus O’Neill and his 50-plus points, are gone.
But Summit is a tight-knit group, chalk full of experience and talent, that expects to prove that hockey games aren’t won with having an all-star scorer; they’re won with collective effort.
“It’s different because we don’t have the superstar, but our whole team works together so much more,” senior co-captain Kyle Metzger said. “We don’t have Shamus, but we have a bunch of kids who have gotten a lot better than last season. We have a bunch of kids just stepping up and doing much better, so we have a lot of players that can do it, instead of just one.”
The Tigers will look to prove that in tonight’s season opener, on the road at Battle Mountain.
Metzger, along with fellow captains Dak Dice and Dylan Horan, will play a large role in keeping the Tigers among the best in the state. It’s their leadership that has Ruhly excited about what his team can do this season. The coach feels his team, if healthy, can compete with anyone it will play, and that doesn’t just start from the top of the roster.
“We have guys that have been with the program for a number of years, and now, this is there time to step up and play,” Ruhly said. “They’ve been fourth-line guys, third-line guys in the past, and now it’s go time and they’re expected to perform day in and day out in practice and games.”
And they’ll have to with such a short roster.
The Tigers plan on rolling out all three lines throughout the season, meaning that every player will have to keep his play at a high level, especially senior goaltender Andrew Dunlap.
“He needs to win games single-handedly for us,” Ruhly said. “If there’s one guy that’s going to be make or break for us, it’s him. He knows that and he understands that, and I feel if he plays the way he can, we have a potential all-state goaltender on our team.”
Dunlap feels up for the challenge and, really, has always put that kind of pressure on himself.
“It’s been like that the past few seasons, but definitely, I just have to focus and not worry about what I can’t control,” he said.
Metzger and Horan are expected to lead a more defensive-minded approach for the Tigers this season. Ruhly said the team just doesn’t have the amount of bodies to run the run-and-gun style of a year ago, so the pair of bruising defensemen will anchor Summit’s neutral-zone trap.
Forcing the other teams into mistakes will be key, Ruhly said, and once the turnovers are created, the coach expects his team to convert.
Dice will be leaned on quite often to help put a punch in the Tiger offense. Sophomore Sean Farley and juniors Evan Streit and Drake Blass should also provide some firepower.
“If we have everybody healthy, we have three really solid lines,” Dice said. ” … We could be better than we were last year.”
And even though Ruhly sees that hole in his lineup, he knows his team has exactly what it takes to improve off prior years, in which the Tigers have had promising seasons end in the first round of the playoffs.
“No predictions, no guarantees, but I’d think we can be as competitive, if not more so, as we have been in the past,” Ruhly said.
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