Games are played on ice, not paper, but one area team is definitely living up to its billing.
North Olmsted is off to a flying start. The Eagles are 2-0 in the Red North and 6-1 overall. North Olmsted has outscored rivals 36-12 in all games and 13-2 in league games. The few question marks the Eagles had to start the year are becoming exclamation points.
One of those was defense. North Olmsted graduated some excellent defensive players off its 26-6 team of a year ago, but putting veteran forwards Logan Beach and Sean McBride in the back end hasn`t hurt.
Nor has goalie Zech Laughbaum, a new kid who went to school in Montana in 2006-07. Laughbaum shut out Benedictine on Sunday, needing just 12 saves to do so. Three of the Eagles` six victories have been shutouts.
“They`re coming along,” North Olmsted coach Tim Murphy said. “We are still a work in progress, but I like the direction they`re going.”
The offense, as expected, has taken care of business with returning stars like Sam DeJoy, Chad Murphy, Ron Soltesz and Tyler Arendec.
“We`re developing three good lines,” Murphy said. “We`re getting some punch from our other two lines as well.”
The only defeat North Olmsted has suffered so far came against Abbey Park of Oakville, Ontario, 5-4 in overtime.
“I can go the Les Miles route and tell everyone we`re undefeated in regulation,” Murphy joked.
True, but unlike Miles` Louisiana State football team, the Eagles also earned a victory in overtime, 4-3 over Cincinnati St. Xavier.
Also hot is Olmsted Falls goalie Patrick Butterfield, particularly against archrival Rocky River. The Bulldogs gave up seven goals to River in the opening game of the season but since then Butterfield has faced 59 shots from the Pirates in two victories and stopped 56. River goalie Austin Blackwell faced only 40 shots by Falls in those games and halted 34.
Who`s not? Sadly, almost everyone else in the area.
Amherst is having real trouble scoring goals, although having little difficulty putting the puck in front of opposing goalies. The Comets scored only once in a loss to Holy Name on Sunday, despite registering 46 shots.
“We are playing hard, but when you take 46 shots you should have more than one goal,” Amherst coach Steve Morris said. “We`re controlling the puck. We have to learn how to put the puck in the net.”
Things aren`t going well at the other end, either.
“Teams are capitalizing on our mistakes,” Morris said. “It was like a game we had at the DiPaolo Tournament. We outshot the other team 33-11 and lost. If we can learn to score and minimize our mistakes, we`ll be all right.”
Elyria Catholic`s woes come in the third period. For two straight games the Panthers looked as if they had victory in reach only to see everything come crashing down in the last period. They led Western Reserve 4-1 after two periods and lost, 6-5. They were up 2-1 Sunday on Strongsville with a minute left in the second period and watched the Mustangs score six goals in the third for an 8-3 win.
Coach Dave Phiel still believes things can be reversed.
“I`m confident our kids can play at this level,” Phiel said. “It`s just tough when you start two freshmen on defense. Last year they were playing Bantam hockey and now they`re playing against 18 year olds.”
The Panthers (1-3-1) miss junior defenseman Matt Fielding, out with a neck injury.
“Last year we`d be in a 2-2 or 3-2 game and we`d be the one to get two or three goals to break it open,” Phiel said. “We can do that. Meanwhile, we have to put out the fire.”
Bay (1-4) is losing the old-fashioned way.
“We`re struggling,” Bay coach Terry Chadwick said. “Teams are outshooting us. That`s all it is.”
In Sunday`s 8-2 White West division loss to Mentor, the Cardinals fired 53 shots at Bay goalie Kevin Figueira. The Rockets had only 16 shots.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org with information for this notebook and nominations for player of the week.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Buddy Gerus, Olmsted Falls
LAST WEEK: Scored six goals and had three assists as Olmsted Falls went 2-1. Scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over the host team for the Rocky River Classic championship. Scored four goals and assisted on the other two as the Bulldogs beat Rocky River 6-3 in a divisional game Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
FAST FACT: Gerus has led Olmsted Falls in scoring every year since he was a freshman.
PARENTS: John and Wendy
OTHER SPORTS: Football, baseball
OTHER INTERESTS: Buddy likes to play golf (dad is manager of The Links golf course). He is serving on Student Council this year.
ON PLAYING AT THE Q: “It was the experience of a lifetime. The facilities were just unbelievable. Everything was top-notch. That was the best locker room I`ve ever been in, that`s for sure.”
FAVORITE NHL PLAYER: Jaromir Jagr
FUTURE PLANS: To attend college, major in physical therapy and play varsity baseball.