Hampton hockey team returns stronger than last season
Last year, the Hampton hockey team enjoyed a successful season despite circumstances beyond its control. This year, the chips fell its way, and it might be the difference between a first-round playoff exit like last season and a deep run in the playoffs.
Despite losing top scorer Justin Weinbrenner to the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League U18 Pens Elite team, the Talbots boasted one of the top offenses in the PIHL last season. They faced a similar situation this year when junior Justin Adamski was considering making the jump to amateur.
Instead, Adamski is back, and the team returns its entire stable of defenseman and a young, talented goaltender with experience.
“Justin is a huge part of our program,” second-year coach Dave Anderson said. “Not only what he can do on the ice, but the kind of teammate he is. He's become a legend of sorts in the Hampton program. A lot of kids look up to him.”
Adamski will lead a line that includes senior forward Michael Orban, who broke out last season with 24 points and a familiar name in Luke Reiser. Graduated brother Kody was the team's captain last year.
“Those guys have great chemistry and think the same way,” Anderson said. “Luke plays defense in amateur but for us plays forward. Really that's a testament to his ability and knowledge of the game. He can play any position on the ice. They have that unspoken chemistry, kind of read off each other. It's fun to watch. “
Though the team graduated its two top scorers in Danny White and Kody Reiser, there's plenty of depth returning. Senior captain Ryan Bates will anchor the second line with senior Evan Koprivnikar and junior Jake Schwarzbach, who proved himself as a JV callup last year.
Seniors Luke Schwerer and Jonathan Venture and junior Matt Commendatore provide plenty of scoring depth. Anderson said senior forward Colin Baker might be the fastest player on the team.
“I think we have pretty good chemistry so far this season,” said Bates. “We played together a little bit last year and were able to build upon each other's strengths.”
Bates has relished the opportunity to captain the team this season.
“It's definitely an honor. I'm really looking forward to helping the team grow and form chemistry. It's a goal this year, to get the teamwork aspect of the game better. Last year that was a struggle at times in later parts of the games.”
While Hampton scored plenty of goals last season and finished a respectable 11-5-4 and second in Class AA East, lapses on defense cost it, particularly in a 5-4 loss to Quaker Valley in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, the team hopes experience translates to better results, starting with top defensive pairing senior Jason Reinert and junior Will Meglio, who will both have an opportunity to quarterback the power play.
“Not a lot of programs can return six defensemen year after year,” said Anderson. “Every single one of those guys has come back stronger and more focused.”
Improvement was paramount for sophomore goaltender Jake McGee, who had enough talent as a freshman to force a timeshare with experienced senior goalie Kameron Bott last season. This year, the job is McGee's to lose.
“I think our staff and players know how difficult it is to make that transition,” said Anderson. “New school, new team, peer pressure. But sports are the great equalizer, and if you're good you get the respect, the nods from the guys … Jake had a great freshman season, and this year he's that much better. He's dialed in. His maturity in the locker room, it's just night and day, and he was great last year.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.