by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
First-year Hudson head ice hockey coach Bobby Lyle didn’t beat around the bush when it came to his new team.
“At the parent meeting, I mentioned that public schools like Shaker [Heights] and [Sylvania] Northview have always been up there as the top teams in the state,” he said. “I want Hudson to be there. I would like to see Hudson be one of the premiere public schools in the state.”
The Explorers don’t appear to be too far away.
Hudson finished 17-13-1 overall in 2012 after losing a 5-2 decision to Hunting Valley University in a district semifinal contest. The Explorers also finished 6-4 in the Red South Division, which was good for third place behind Walsh Jesuit and Rocky River. Hudson is set to play in the Red North East Division this season.
Lyle, a 2007 Hudson graduate, played forward for the Explorers. He replaces Matt Bartley, who resigned after last season. Bartley joined the team in 2007 when Lyle was a senior.
“Matt and I are still friends,” Lyle said. “He has been very helpful throughout this process. He has helped me with organizing and game-day protocol. He has really helped me get prepared for the season.”
Hudson lost seven seniors to graduation. They are forwards Jake Collins, Evan Hablitzel, Steve Jones and Dillon Picone and defensemen Luke Mussay, Tom Maley and Jonny Vince.
The Explorers’ top two returning offensive players are forwards Connor Ganley, a senior, and Bo Lori, a junior. Also returning are senior Grayson Kotseos, who enters his fourth year as the team’s starting goaltender, senior defensemen Jack Braun and Cole Mackay and junior defenseman Zach Thibault.
“Our defense is our strongest area,” Lyle said. “We have a good mix of players. For the most part, we’re going to depend on Connor and Bo to put pucks in the net.”
Other seniors include forwards Craig McGimpsey, Luke McLean and Kevin Slane. The rest of the junior class comprises forwards Brady Edwards, Mikey Gaffney, Brent Zubal and Jacob Myers and defensemen Brendan Nenni and Pat Jones.
Rounding out the squad are sophomores Connor Kasard (forward), John Calabro (forward), Chris Warfield (forward), Jack Verser (forward), Bret Lindemann (forward), Matt Murphy (defenseman) and freshmen Ricky Marez (forward), Anthony Giaimo (forward), Harry Harr (forward), Cory Wepler (forward) and Auston Ganley (goalie).
Lyle, who also played for the Kent State University club ice hockey team, doesn’t plan on using a particular strategy on offense or defense.
“I’ve preached from the beginning that I’m not a coach who is completely system-based,” Lyle said. “My philosophy is about winning the one-on-one battles, clearing the puck and blocking shots.
“Hockey is not like football. Hockey is more about game flow. It’s not a chess match. It’s more about desire.”
Lyle’s assistants are first-year coach Tim Hurst, another former Kent State hockey player, and second-year coach Dee Edwards, who was the junior varsity team’s head coach last season. Hudson does not have a JV squad this season.
The Red South Division also includes Mentor, Parma Padua Franciscan and Parma Heights Holy Name.
“Our immediate goal is to win the division,” Lyle said. “That’s something Hudson hasn’t done since 2009. Hudson has always been right there. Now it’s time to make that jump. We want to be that team that everyone is afraid to play at districts.”
The Explorers are scheduled to make their season debut against Mentor in the Rocky River Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 23 at 9:15 a.m.