It has been a long run for the Avon Grove boys hockey team.
After winning the Delaware Scholastic Hockey Association varsity championship last season, the boys were looking to defend their title once again.
“It was a good season,” said head coach Jim Este. “Looking back on the season, our defense just matured so much and there were some seniors driving that in Tommy Oranzi and Mike Rogers. We scored, but not nearly at the levels we had the previous year, but certainly enough to propel us through the games.”
The season’s start couldn’t have been any better, going 4-0 and out-scoring opponents 34-4. The first loss came against DMA (Delaware Military Academy), another undefeated team, but only by a single goal.
Avon Grove went on to win nine of the next 12 games for a 13-3-1 record and saw themselves heading right back to the Championship round.
Leading the charge for the team was senior forward Justin Este. Through 17 games, he notched 17 goals (second on the team) and 19 assists (first) for a team best 36 points.
“I had a great time this season with my team,” Justin Este said. “I enjoyed being captain and leading the boys to the championship game. Even though we didn’t win, I was still proud of the effort my team gave throughout the season.”
Behind him was freshman forward Brendan Harman with 34 points, but led the team with his 23 goals.
“A lot of the underclassmen stepped up this year,” Jim Este said. “Coming out of the 2012-13 season, we were, on a scoring perspective, primarily senior-led. We really didn’t know where our scoring would come from this season.
“We had found scoring from a number of different underclassmen. That’s a big plus. We have plenty of capable underclassmen that are more than capable of scoring that will take on even bigger roles next year.”
Goaltending was split almost equally between senior Logan Reisinger and junior Ryan Lloyd. Reisinger played in 10 games with a 7-2-1 record for a 2.20 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. Lloyd finished with a 6-1-0 record with a 1.43 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
Lloyd led the division with his goals-against numbers with Reisinger coming in at fourth.
“I’ve said about Logan all along he is probably a good a goalie there is probably in the greater Philadelphia area and did an absolutely fantastic job for us this year,” Jim Este said. “Certainly close in the skills was junior Ryan Lloyd. He’s coming back next year and he won’t have to share as much time next year because he will be the guy.
“He’s more than capable of taking it on. He had some big games this year and ended up with two or three shutouts. He did an outstanding job. Leaving him in charge after Logan will leave the team in pretty good shape.”
The offense as a whole put 100 goals past goaltenders this seasons while allowed just 32 and came into the championship match against the division’s No. 1 team in DMA Feb. 21.
Things got off well with Avon Grove scoring the game’s first goal, courtesy of senior defenseman Thomas Oranzi at 12:37 of the first.
But a three-goal second period proved to be too much to overcome.
“We didn’t play our best game,” Jim Este said. “From the second period on, we just wore down and got tired and didn’t have as good a game as we had hoped to. Things didn’t go our away after the first period.”
Nick Burns, Derek Golembrosky and Colin Emerich provided the goals for DMA in the second and Paul Williams added one more in third for a 4-1 final.
“DMA just beat us,” Jim Este said. “They had a much better game plan and much better game than what we had and they definitely were well prepared for the game – not that we weren’t – but DMA took the game from us.
Despite not being able to pull off back-to-back championships, Avon Grove still had a lot to be proud of from the entire season and have high hopes for next season as well.
Out of its 20-man roster, Avon Grove will only be losing six players to graduation next season.
Those outgoing seniors are: Este (F), Matt Manocchi (F), Matt Ohm (F), Oranzi (D), Reisinger (G), Mike Rogers (D).
“I will miss the bond that the whole team shared,” Justin Este said. “We were like one big family. I will also miss all of those close and exciting games and the support from the fans.”
Avon Grove will be losing some big players, but will have a new class coming in which should pick the team up right where they left off.
“We have a pretty large class of eighth graders moving up next year,” Jim Este said. “There are probably six, if not eight, coming in next year.”
One another spot the team will lose is the coach.
Jim Este handed in his resignation after two seasons as head coach, deciding it was time for him to go alongside his son, who is graduating in a few months. He compiled a 30-5-1 record over that time.
“I’ve learned so much from these kids,” he said. “Avon Grove hockey is alive and well and will be alive and well long after I leave. It’s been an honor to be able to coach these kids. I inherited the team from a great coach and it’s been a great learning experience for me.
“It’s been fun, but it’s time to turn the helm over to the next coach.”