Elder Hockey on the rise



Overview shot of the post-game MVP presentation vs. Alter.

Elder High School, like all the GCL South schools, is well known for its athletics as well as its academics. Elder football is best known for the three state championship finals and two back-to-back state championships.

Baseball is known for winning a state championship in every decade since the 1940’s. Basketball also is known for the three state championships it possesses. Elder volleyball has become one of Elder’s top sports, winning five state title since 1999.

While these sports have earned all of their credibility here at Elder, there are some who do not receive as much credit as they deserve. Most notably in my opinion, is Elder’s hockey team.

Seniors Cameron Olding and Josh Antone celebrating after another goal against rival Beavercreek.
Seniors Cameron Olding and Josh Antone celebrating after another goal against rival Beavercreek.

Last season, Elder hockey went on to its best season yet, with a record of 13-17-2. While some may think this is not too impressive, they have not seen some of the program’s previous records. In the 2013-2014 season just before this, the team went 3-30-2. Last season was a major improvement for the Ice Panthers, and this season is another step up. Seven games into the season, the team sits at a solid 6-1 record, defeating some of the best teams in the state, including Talawanda, who Elder beat for the first time November 27th.

The Ice Panthers have been off to its best start this season, and the team is really clicking well together. This is most likely the youngest team ever assembled at Elder, and although the team is not as talented as previous years, the 2015-2016 Panthers have won games the most talented teams weren’t even close to beating.

Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t defeat Kent Roosevelt to win its second straight DiaPaolo Hockey Tournament championship, but there is a positive to this loss. Kent Roosevelt is currently ranked as one of the top teams in the state and the Ice Panthers were in the game until the end. The night before, the Panthers defeated the West Virginia State Champions Wheeling Park, so the hockey team appears to be right on track.

This year the Ice Panthers have scored 28 points through seven games and only given up 18. Last season the team had scored 29 goals, but have given up 22 goals. So far the team looks to be on track to beat the records set last season, and establish records which Elder may not be able to reach again when this team is all gone.

According to head coach Joe Del Prince, this is no surprise. This program started back in the 2002-2003 school year, and the program was grooming players like this team since then. Elder was the second GCL school to start hockey in the area, behind Moeller which has been established since the 1970’s. The program was helped by a man named Joe Puls, and Joe is especially responsible for the outcome of the team today. According to Del Prince, “When this program was started, the vision the original coaches had was for a team of players just like this team.” He couldn’t be more right.

When hockey first started on the West Side, Puls started a team for young kids. Currently, eight of those players are on this team, one is attending Saint Xavier (Jacob Barnes ’16), one graduated from Elder last season (Charlie Selhorst ’15), the goalie of this team plays for Northern Kentucky Club, and captain of this team tried to start a team up at Oak Hills, but unfortunately was unsuccessful.

Alternate Captains Mike Wynn Matt Wall with Matt Mohan taking the puck from Alter.
Alternate Captains Mike Wynn Matt Wall with Matt Mohan taking the puck from Alter.

This entire team has been together on and off since they have started, and I am proud to say I am part of this group of eight. Because of this, the team has been able to have much success with almost no off ice issues, which has been a problem in the past between players.

One of the youngest members of this group, Matt Larkin (’19) is very excited about this. “We have been coming along since the beginning of the year.” Matt said, “Everyone is clicking and we are all starting to trust each other out there.”

Playing with the original eight has been a great benefit according to Matt, and there is no question this is a major factor. Teams like Moeller and Saint Xavier have had such great hockey programs because most of the teams have been together from the start in the travel leagues. This year, Elder has a major benefit with the original eight of the Mischell brothers, the Larkin brothers, the Wynn brothers, Charlie Garnett, and Matt Mohan. Of these eight, four are starters, two are on the second line and I am a rotating goalie with sophomore Jacob Henn. Matt Larkin saw the benefit of this in the first game where we upset Talawanda, showing how good this team plays together.

Elder student Ryan Sweeney was in attendance at a game versus Beavercreek in Kettering, and was very impressed with the hockey team. “I was shocked at how much Elder dominated the game.” Just a season before, Elder lost to the same exact Beavercreek team with the same players, 9-1.

Jake Hofmeyer and Cameron Olding celebrating after an early lead goal against Alter.
Jake Hofmeyer and Cameron Olding celebrating after an early lead goal against Alter.

“Playing at Beavercreek for hockey was like playing at a very small version of The Pit.” He said, “The cheering section was really getting on Elder and the Panthers just kept firing back with goal after goal.” Ryan even noticed one incident where the Panthers literally fired back…with a puck into the stands towards the cheering section (on accident of course trying to kill off a penalty). “The sport is rough,” Ryan said, “got to give credit to the players on the team for playing and the fans who attend.”

This weekend the Panthers take on Mason at the Cincinnati Gardens Friday night at 9 PM, a home game for the Panthers who look to solidify their standing in first place of their division. Saturday and Sunday the Panthers travel near Columbus to face the teams of New Albany and Troy. The following week Elder takes on two of its biggest rivals in hockey, Sycamore on Friday at 7 PM at Sports Plus and LaSalle Saturday at the Cincinnati Gardens at 8 PM for GCL Night.

GCL Night features the JV teams of Moeller vs. Saint Xavier A and Elder JV vs. Saint Xavier B during the morning and afternoon games, followed by Varsity Moeller vs. Saint Xavier and Elder vs. LaSalle. GCL Night is the best night for someone who hasn’t seen a hockey game before for Elder and to watch on of the most intense games between schools.

The GCL is already a rough division in other sports, but there is no sport in the GCL which becomes as brutal, intense, and emotional as hockey. People say there is emotion in the football games, and as a three year football player this is true. However, because hockey is so small in Cincinnati, you know EVERY player on the other team, you know their moves, and you even know what can get them ejected.

Football each GCL school has almost 90 players on the team, making it hard to know personally every player on the other team. Over the summer, the teams of Elder and Moeller combine for a Men’s League team to play with each other and have fun. Hockey has so few players on a team, you end up knowing each player personally. This adds a major emotional feeling to the game which is not comparable to any other sport in the GCL. For those who have tried hockey or seen any hockey game before, you can understand the emotion and intensity in the players in each game.

As a member of this team, we encourage all fans to come out and support the Elder Panthers on this momentous night against the LaSalle Lancers. Even if you’re not a fan of hockey, come out and watch and see the hard work and one of the most long-term projects in Elder’s history finally come together.