Clay hockey team hoping to build off a rough start

Mark Griffin

Clay hockey coach Randy Menchaca is the ultimate optimist when discussing the rough start for this year’s team.
The Eagles lost to Springfield and a travel team from Northern Kentucky by wide margins, and also lost all three games at the Bruce Anderson Memorial Tournament on Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Parma.
“The first tournament game (a 9-1 loss to Chagrin Falls) we had a couple guys who were sick,” Menchaca said. “Going into tournaments, obviously you want to win, but taking one on the chin isn’t that bad either. It’s a learning experience. We’re not happy with losing all three, (but) we have a lot of inexperienced guys.”
Menchaca said he doesn’t see this as a rebuilding year but “a developing year more than anything.”
“We are looking to develop some younger guys, and we have some older guys who are inexperienced as well,” he said. “We’re looking to the future of the program. If we can get these young guys to develop, we’re looking at being a better squad in the future.”
Clay, which finished third in the Northwest Hockey Conference’s White Division last season, has nine seniors, one junior, three sophomores and five freshmen. Menchaca said the freshmen want to play and learn, and they are coachable.
“Some of those guys we’re really going to be leaning on, especially deeper in the season,” Menchaca said. “(Freshman defenseman) Evan Materni is a big boy. I’m already looking up at him to talk to him. Right now he’s a big, gentle teddy bear, but he’s also coming out of playing youth hockey and he’s only had two years of contact. Now it’s a different game we want him to play and it’s an adjustment for him.”
The Eagles will ultimately have to rely on a handful of players to get results on the offensive end, including sophomore forward Cory Krieger. Menchaca said Krieger still needs to gain confidence in order to be a force around the net.
“In the coaches’ minds, he can take over a game any time he wants to,” Menchaca said. “He’s been around the program since he was a seventh-grader and we always liked what he’s brought to the table. Another kid who has all ability to get it done is (senior forward) Alex Taylor. I’ve watched him develop since his freshman year and he has to start believing in himself.
“That’s where we are as a team. We believe in them and it’s just a matter of them going out and getting it down and coming out on top of every situation they’re battling.”
Taylor, senior forward Evan Cote and sophomore defenseman Max Belli are the team captains.
“Evan has the ability to get things done offensively and defensively,” Menchaca said. “He just has to keep his head up and keep his feet moving. When he does both, he’s a pretty flashy player out there who gets it done.”
Menchaca said Belli suffered a broken fibula in the first game of the season and could be out for three months.
“That’s a huge loss,” Menchaca said. “Max is probably our most fundamentally sound defenseman and he has a pretty high hockey IQ. He knows how to turn defense into offensive situations.”
Menchaca is also high on sophomore forward Tanner Truman and freshman forward Dakota Martin.
“Tanner came into this season for tryouts just flying,” the coach said. “He’s probably the quickest kid on the team when he wants to get those feet moving. We had him on the first line last year for a while and he’s developed more coming into this season. He wasn’t the quickest kid last year, but he had the skating ability to get things done.
“Dakota is a kid who is hungry for the game. He’s a coachable kid. The more he matures and gets more confidence behind him, he’s going to be more aggressive. I look to him to put a lot of points on the scoreboard the more he gets into his high school career.”
Other seniors of note include first-year player Ty Szymczak, fellow forwards Daniel Cufr and twin brothers Ali and Ahmed Tawil, and defenseman John Hansen.
“Ty is just an athlete and he’s a very coachable kid,” Menchaca said. “It’s a coach’s dream to have a kid that athletic and wanting to work that hard. Daniel is competing with everybody and has a big heart as well. The twins are second-year players and I love watching those two play based on the amount of heart they have. John Hansen brings a ton of aggressive play. He wants to compete and he wants to win. He’s got an unbelievable wrist shot and slap shot.”
Menchaca added that he’s been experimenting with moving players from defense to forward, but he has no plans to move senior Luke Silva out of the goal. Silva rotated with J.J. Utter as the Eagles’ goalie last season.
“Luke would come in cold and he would compete,” Menchaca said. “He’s been a little shaky at times, but during the (Parma) tournament he played that second game just unbelievable. He broke his stick making a save and it was that competitiveness that kept the puck from going in. Luke played an amazing game that night.”
That competitiveness is what Menchaca said he will be looking for from the entire squad as the season progresses.
“Being consistently competitive and the willingness to develop, that’s what we are looking for this year,” he said. “Winning is going to come; these guys all want to win. As a coaching staff, we believe in them and they just have to believe in themselves.”


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association