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Oldham Hockey seizes opportunity

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By Sam Draut

Oldham County hockey had an opportunity and took advantage of it.

A club team comprised of student-athletes from North Oldham, South Oldham, Oldham County and other schools in the surrounding area won the state championship and reached the quarterfinals of the national tournament in March.

“There was a point where we talked as a team in January,” coach Kevin Mazzella said. “We said ‘Hey we have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us. We can put in the time and work in practice, support each other in games and practices, and try to do something special.”

Led by nine seniors, things started to click from there.

Oldham County started playing its best hockey in the end of January and into February. Playing without two of its best players, Kevin Mazzella said a regular season 1-0 victory over Northern Kentucky was a turning point for the team.

“I think everyone realized, ‘Hey we are pretty good, we can do this,’” Kevin Mazella said. “It was one of those moments that everyone started to believe.”

Players were focused and practices were consistent.

“We all knew state was ours and we started playing some of the best hockey I’ve ever seen this group play,” senior Ian Gifford said.

It helped that a core contingent of the roster had played together for several years.

In a style dedicated to speed and movement because of the lack of size, Oldham County needed to be able to move the puck around the ice. Familiarity with the way each other played was critical.

“Some of us have played together since elementary and middle school, the group of nine seniors have been together for the past four years,” senior Jonah Rodell said. “We would see growth each year.”

When the season began, winning a state championship was the primary goal for the nine seniors. In the state tournament, it was the group of seniors that helped carry Oldham County to a title.

Oldham County’s eight goals in the state semi-finals and final all came from four seniors. Colin Mazzella, Gifford, Tiago Ramirez and Nathan Ledford each had two goals in the victories.

“We played a lot better as a team as opposed to years past,” Colin Mazzella said. “We always had skill, but we never truly utilized all of our players around us to our full potential.”

Along with a more balanced offensive attack, the defensemen and goalkeeper Matthew Crombie held firm in the state tournament. Earlier in the season, Ian Haney, who had been a forward for his entire career, moved to defense because of Oldham County’s lack of depth at that position.

“I think about someone like that, where he was the beginning of the year versus end of the year, it was unbelievable growth,” Kevin Mazzella said.

After winning the state title, Oldham County moved onto the 16-team national tournament in Minneapolis.

The team hoped to be competitive and had the goal of winning at least one game. It ended up going better than expected.

In the four-team pool play, Oldham County defeated Salt Lake 4-2, followed by a 5-1 victory over the Gilette Wild from Wyoming. Ledford and Colin Mazzella scored the game’s first two goals as Oldham County never relinquished its lead.

Oldham County defeated Northwest Arkansas 3-1 to advance to the national quarterfinals.

“We were surprised,” Rodell said.

Collin Mazzella said sophomores Jack Spelder and Haney stepped up in the national tournament while Carson Moylan tallied several assists.

“Everyone played the best hockey I’ve seen them play at nationals,” Gifford said. “Everyone helped win those games.”

In the quarterfinals, Oldham County lost to St. John Bosco from California.

“They were too much for us to handle,” Kevin Mazzella said.

Coaches and players agreed the state title and trip to nationals was the ideal way for the group of nine seniors to finish their careers.

“It’s very rare for a team like this to stay together for so many years and I’ve been playing with them ever since I first moved to Kentucky,” Gifford said. “I realized how much I really love hockey thanks to these boys and to end the season any other way would just be wrong.”

Coaches:

Kevin Mazzella: head coach. Assistant coaches: Mark Spelder and Andy Steffan. Team manager: Joey Budd.

Roster:

Matthew Crombie, Carson Moylan, Zachary Budd, Jake Doezema, Seth Aridano, Colin Mazzella, Jonah Rodell, Tiago Ramirez, Ian Gifford, Nathan Ledford, Logan Dean, Jack Spelder, Parker Congleton, Ethan Howay, Nolan Cashon, Jackson Alexander, Ian Haney and Cameron Crombie.