This time of the year, the prep basketball, wrestling and swim teams are entering the stretch run of the season.
Some area athletes are focusing on a different sport — hockey.
For 35 years, Lake High School fielded a varsity hockey team. Six years ago, cutbacks were made to the school district's budget and tennis, hockey, and bowling were eliminated from the athletic programs.
|Lake goalkeeper Nick Horsman, the son of long time
Toledo area hockey parents. (Press photo by Scott Grau)
|Lake's Caleb Opblinger and Jeff Wilson. (Photo courtesy of
Enter Craig Horvath.
“After that happened, I spoke to Dave Fielding, who runs the Northwest Hockey Conference. He said, 'If you guys think you can fund (the team), we'll give you a shot.”
Six years later, Horvath and his team are still going strong with the team now existing as a club sport.
This year's squad is led by forward Salahadin Mustapha and goalie Nick Horsman. Mustapha, a.k.a “Moose”, a resident of Sylvania, is one of the top scorers in the NHC's White Division. and Horsman, a hockey fanatic, is one of its top goalies. According to the NHC's statistics, Mustapha had 23 goals in the team's first six games.
Lake is 13-10 overall and currently stands in third place at 5-5 in the division. They trail Anthony Wayne (11-0) and Sylvania Southview (6-3-2). Following Lake is Perrysburg (4-7) and Fremont Ross (0-10).
The league as a whole has 16 teams, 10 of which are in the White Division and six of which are in the Red Division. The NHC is home to a number of the state’s top programs, among them St. John's Jesuit, Findlay, Bowling Green and Maumee. In fact, the conference has produced the last two state champions, Sylvania Northview and St. Francis DeSales.
Thus far, Lake is having an up-and-down season after going 21-12-4 and winning the division in 2011-12.
“We did not win all of the games we could have,” Mustapha said, “but we are working hard to be more successful in the future. We are doing pretty well as a new team in the division, but that should not be an excuse.”
“We're a Jekyll and Hyde team so far,” Horvath said, alluding to the team's inconsistent play. “We're a .500 team and we're starting to find ourselves. We're not a bad team. We've been close with Anthony Wayne the last six years.”
The team practices twice per week, once on Sundays at Bowling Green State University and once on Wednesdays at Ottawa Park in Toledo, and usually plays two games per week.
More than anything, what holds this team together is unity. For these players, it's about having a common goal and working hard to achieve it.
“The team has pretty good camaraderie,” Horvath said. “Once they get in the locker room, it's all about hockey. We've never really had any problems with (the chemistry). If you get the right mix in your locker room, that's what it's all about.”
“The best way I can say it is that it's like a brotherhood,” Horsman said. “With all the boys and coaches, it's pretty much a family.”
Mustapha elaborated, “At practice, we work hard together and if one of us is slacking, we pick him up and encourage him to work harder. In the games, we never say degrading things to each other and if one of us needs to tell something to another player, it is to improve their game. We stand up for each other. Off the ice, this team may joke around a lot, but when game time comes, we're all prepared to play.”
Horvath doesn't run the show by himself. He's got a number of assistant coaches, among them Tony Horvath, his son, and Brandon Maze. Horvath also credits Ron Kenney, who played hockey at Waite High School in the '70s, and Jeff Pierce, who is from Canada, with helping him keep things together.
The roster, which includes 12 players, features, in addition to Mustapha and Horsman, a capable, versatile group of athletes.
There are a number of players who play both forward and defensemen, among them Sam Rogers, Malachi McLean (1 G, 5 A), Jeff Wilson (3 G, 3 A) and Jordon Dirkman (3 G, 2 A).
Joining Mustapha on offense is Kyle Ramer (4 G, 8 A), Adam Wozniak (4 G, 1 A), Caleb Opblinger and Pat Modowski. Jordon Ramer (2 G, 6 A) and Dylan Mauder (1 G, 5 A) serve as full-time defensemen.
“We definitely mix it up depending on who we're playing,” Horvath said. “I don't believe in starting the same kids every night; we don't have a starting lineup. We have 10 to 11 guys that can do things for us every night. I could tell you a good thing about every one of them. Moose, he stands out and leads us in points, but I don't like to talk about individuals too much because they all do their part, they're all part of the team.”