Glenwood hockey gearing up to defend state title
With roughly the same team back in the mix this fall, the Glenwood Grizzlies Midget A team is set to begin the defense of its state championship it claimed this past March, defeating Cherry Creek 4-3 in the final, starting Saturday against Summit at 3 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. at the Glenwood Recreational Ice Rink.
Last season, behind a team of mostly sophomores, the Grizzlies really put themselves on the map against tough, experienced teams on the Front Range by winning the state championship in dramatic fashion. Now, with the program’s winningest goaltender in Jake Fegan having moved on to college, the Grizzlies will have to find just one replacement for a team that mostly returns in tact.
Despite losing Fegan in net, the Grizzlies welcome an impactful group of players making the move up to Midget from the Bantam level, starting with four-year captain Ryan Kotz and alternate captain Dylan Webster. Joining Kotz and Webster is up-and-coming netminder Hunter Hadsock, as well as some talented skaters in Cole Hawkinson, Cole Houston, Kai Kanzer, Lara Trulove and Dylan Uren.
That group of players moving up from Bantam will look to make a smooth transition onto a team stacked with impressive offensive talent in Billet Porter, Mathew Thrun, Brody Bittner and Sam Liotta, to name a few, while guys like Alec Sloan and Travis Leahy hold down the blue line for the Grizzlies.
Knowing that a large majority of the championship team is returning for another go-around this winter, expectations are high for this group.
“Any team that wins state playoffs has high expectations from their home city or team, and their coaching staff,” Sloan said. “Other teams are looking to better us, so they’re probably thinking we’ve moved a bunch of seniors out of the picture not knowing that we have pretty much the same team coming back. I have high expectations from this team because I’ve liked what I’ve seen this last week or two on the ice, and I like what we’ve done over the summer.”
Sloan, one of two captains on the Grizzlies along with Liotta, will play an instrumental role as leaders once again this season for Glenwood. Last season, Sloan and Liotta served as captains, so it was easy to keep the same captains once again. While Liotta will have to carry more of a load offensively in terms of scoring and physicality, Sloan will have a larger responsibility this season as the Grizzlies look to replace Fegan with Josh Cook and Lucca Trapani in net. Although Sloan isn’t worried about breaking in a new goaltender as the top defenseman, it will be interesting to see just how the Grizzlies replace a stalwart like Fegan in net.
“I think the younger guys are getting a lot more ice time now because we’re not focused on Jake as much anymore,” Sloan said. “I’m not too worried about holding the blueline or feel that added pressure of taking care of the goaltender. There’s pressure there, but it’s not added pressure for me. I don’t feel like I’m going to have to step up my game in a big way to make sure our goaltenders are fine on the back end.”
With question marks in net, and the challenge of defending a state championship, the Grizzlies certainly have their work cut out for them in the 2016-17 season. However, with strong leadership in the mold of Liotta and some serious offensive firepower with Porter, the Grizzlies certainly have what it takes to repeat. For now though, it’s all about staying focused on the task at hand.
“We can’t get cocky,” Liotta said. “We have to defend that title and we need to go into every game humbled and not overestimate anybody. We only lost one player, so we need to do better than we did last year, if that’s possible. But I don’t think we’ll have issues with focus as a group. That being said though, we need to prove to all these teams all over again that we’re really good, and we do that by winning.”
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