Winning the C Division championship at the Cold Turkey Thanksgiving Holiday Tournament at Tam-O-Shanter did more for Eastwood's club hockey team than just garner it a trophy.
"It gained us some respect," said sixth-year coach Brian Contris, a 1993 Eastwood graduate. "A lot of teams look at us as just a team of players who were cut or just weren't good enough to make other teams. These guys are all very good high school hockey players.
"The majority, if not all of them, could play on an organized high school hockey team if that's what they chose to do."
The Eagles beat Garfield Heights Trinity, Whitmer, and Fremont Ross to advance to the Cold Turkey title game, then beat Whitmer again for the championship.
Through Dec. 16, the Eagles, an independent team, had a 9-1 record with wins over Fremont Ross (twice), Central Catholic and Ottawa Hills. Their only loss is a 7-2 decision against Perrysburg, which was picked to finish second behind Bedford (Mich.) in the Northwest Hockey Conference's White Division.
Eastwood, which has had a club hockey program since 2000, can use players up through age 18. Contris has been with the program since its inception.
"We've had some kids who have been playing together for three, four years," he said. "We have 14 players from 11 different schools, but the core of them have been playing together for three or four years."
This year's squad includes two players from both Eastwood and Cardinal Stritch and other players who currently attend Oak Harbor, Bowling Green, St. Francis de Sales, Rossford, Swanton, Napoleon and Woodmore high schools. They also have 2009 graduates from Lake, Clay and Bowling Green.
"The three kids we have who are graduates have definitely helped us with leadership," Contris said.
The two players from Eastwood High School are senior goalie Justin Bockbrader and senior forward Austin Lavoy, who might miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury.
The Stritch players are sophomore forward Justin Moore and junior forward Tim Langlois. Defenseman Joseph Bella graduated from Lake in 2009, and the Eagles also have defenseman Mike "Wojo" Wojciechowski, who graduated from Clay last year.
Eastwood's roster also includes Davyd Perry, a junior defenseman from Oak Harbor, and junior goalie Andrew Gedert from Woodmore. Gedert is 5-0 with 69 saves in 225 minutes of ice time, and Bockbrader is 4-1 with 61 saves in 210 minutes.
"I have two really good goaltenders," Contris said. "They split games. If one gets hot or one's had more success against a certain team in a tounament, they might play back-to-back. I'd have to flip a coin to tell you who is better. We've been blessed with two very good goalies."
Bowling Green High School graduate Ryan Whitson, a left wing, leads the Eagles in scoring with 19 goals and 11 assists.
"He should be playing for BGSU's club team," Contris said. "I'm glad somebody there at BGSU doesn't know how to pick out talent. He's a very good player. We've seen the BGSU club play, and quite honestly he should be on their team. We'll take him, because he's been a real leader for us."
Senior Jimmy Grandowitz, from Rossford, has been a four-year captain for the Eagles and has seven goals and 20 assists this season.
"He is an absolute spark plug," Contris said. "We run two lines and I could keep that kid out on the ice without ever giving him a break. Jimmy can skate all day long."
Wojciechowski has 12 goals and 13 assists, and Moore has nine goals and 12 assists for Eastwood, which has outscored opponents 75-18 this season.
"We're a very high-scoring team," said Contris, whose team has nine power-play goals and four shorthanded goals. "All four of our defensemen are very offensive minded, and all four do a very good job of getting back in position. We depend on our scoring, and our goaltending allows us to do that."
The Eagles, who won 22 games a year ago, are not eligible to compete in the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs. They practice and have some games at the Fremont Rec Center, and they also play games at the University of Findlay.
"We play in a couple tournaments throughout the season," Contris said. "We won the Cold Turkey tournament and we'll be playing in Monroe's (Mich.) Christmas tournament. We usually play in a Martin Luther King tournament, and at the end of the year we usually play in a Cleveland tournament.
"We've talked about joining some leagues. A lot of these kids play travel hockey, so they get to play against kids they used to play with. They just happen to be at a school that doesn't have hockey, and we have some kids who don't want to practice five days a week. We practice once a week and then we also work on cardio and strength training and so forth once a week."