The more things change …
For the past two seasons, the Amherst hockey team has posted at least 30 wins. This year they have Connor Morris, the Southwestern Conference and Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League White Division player of the year, back for his senior year.
All Morris did last year was score 49 goals and assist another 81 as the Comets rolled to a 31-3 season.
Star counting the goals and the wins this year, right?
Well, the truth is this year may have a little different look for the Comets and for Morris, who will be dealing with a whole new set of expectations.
The Comets have five players on their 13-man roster who have very little or no varsity experience. So suddenly, Morris is not only a player, he is also an on-ice coach for the depth-challenged Comets.
“We really have a lot of new guys and I think myself and the older guys are focusing on teaching right now,” Morris said. “We’re really trying to get everyone on the same page and we’re not too worried about our record right now.
“We really are just trying to take it one day at a time. We still have a lot to learn as a team and we have a lot of hard work to do getting ready for the season.”
After a pair of super seasons, the Comets are going to be the target of every opposing team whether they have a full contingent of seasoned players or not. That’s something not lost on the senior, who is probably playing in his last competitive hockey season.
Morris is not planning to play hockey or baseball at the college level despite his numerous postseason awards on the ice and his All-Ohio selection as a baseball player for the Comets.
“We’ve been lucky enough the last few years to have a lot of the same guys back,” Morris said. “Most of the team is new, so returning players Jordan Reynolds, Kevin Burgett and myself are going to really be pushed by the opposing teams.
“We’ve always been a team that strived to be very fundamental, so we have to hone in on the simple things and play smart hockey. There are going to be plenty of times when I’m going to be more of a decoy to get the rest of the team involved for us to be successful.”
Comets coach Steve Morris is well aware of the challenges facing his Comets.
“We have five seniors that have either never played or played very little hockey at this level, including our backup goalie that has never played (varsity) before,” said the elder Morris. “We really have spent a lot more time coaching fundamentals than we have in the past and Connor, along with the other returning seniors who have been with me for a while, have been very helpful with the younger guys.
“The thing I’m going to have to watch this year is using Connor and some of the other guys too much. I’m going to have to balance time on the ice against us having a short roster. I really don’t want to have to ride Connor so much that he wears down during the season.”
The pressure to repeat their past success may fall squarely on the shoulders of Morris, Reynolds and Burgett, but you wouldn’t know it listening to Morris.
“I know that defenders are going to come at me all year when I’m on the ice,” he said. “I don’t mind it at all, I’d rather they come at me so I can pass the puck off to let my teammates score. If that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful, then that’s what we’ll do.
“It doesn’t matter to me how we win. The young guys on the team have been working very hard and we’ll do our best to try and put up another 30-win year, a league championship and a Southwestern Conference championship.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.