September 20, 2014

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High school hockey: Avon’s Eric Novakovic knows how to find the net, now he wants to be a leader, as well

Avon senior Eric Novakovic is the returning top goal scorer for the Eagles — and all of Lorain County — having found the net 51 times a year ago. The Eagles need him to be a leader as well as an offensive threat this season. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Avon senior Eric Novakovic is the returning top goal scorer for the Eagles — and all of Lorain County — having found the net 51 times a year ago. The Eagles need him to be a leader as well as an offensive threat this season. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Where have all the goal scorers gone?

Well, while most of Lorain County’s outstanding offensive players from a year ago have graduated or are no longer playing hockey, there is at least one player back who knows what to do with the puck.

And he just happens to have had the gaudiest offensive numbers of all, last season.

That would be Avon’s Eric Novakovic, the only player from the top 15 Lorain County scorers from last year still playing. All he did last year was score 51 goals for an Eagles team that went 15-17.

Despite the more than solid year, Novakovic is still bothered about some aspects of last season.

Like the end.

Eric Novakovic

Eric Novakovic

Avon missed making the Baron Cup playoffs in the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League after losing to Parma 6-1 in a win-and-in game in the season finale. As bad as that was, it hurt all the more because Novakovic was watching from the bench with a broken thumb.

“It still really bothers me when I think about missing games at the end of the year,” Novakovic said. “I keep thinking that I might have made a difference in us missing the Baron Cup playoffs. It’s definitely something we want to do this year and something I’ve been working towards in the offseason.”

The Eagles will have to lean on Novakovic a little more than usual in the early part of the season with several members of the hockey team playing catch-up after going deep into the playoffs as members of the football team.

Novakovic isn’t worried about that.

“I would love to have those guys here, but I want them to have a memorable senior football season, so we’ll just have to welcome them with open arms whenever they get here,” he said before the football team’s loss in the Division II regional finals.

Those are words of a kid sounds ready to be a team leader and not just the team’s top scorer.

“As a parent and coach, I couldn’t be happier with the way Eric has matured both on the ice and in the classroom,” said Avon coach Nick Novakovic, who just happens to be Eric’s father as well. “As a parent, you’re always happy when your child performs well in the classroom. As a coach, I see him taking a more active role in being a leader on this team.

“We’re looking to get leadership out of all of our seniors, but right now a lot of them are missing (because of football) and more of that has fallen on Eric right now. He’s going to be our captain this year because of his ability and the maturity he has shown.”

If the Eagles, who are off to a 3-1 start, are going to be at less than full strength for a while, Eric Novakovic sounds ready for the challenge.

“I know that we’ll be short-handed at first and they will probably be banged up from football, but we should be able to get off to a good start until those guys get back,” he said.

“It will give the younger guys a chance to get more time on the ice. That should definitely help us out later in the year.”

Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.