Friday, February 15, 2013

Oxford ready for start of OAA playoffs tonight

OXFORD, MI – At the midpoint of the season, the Oxford varsity hockey team was having an up-and-down season in terms of wins and losses, but optimism, and better play, has been peaking in recent weeks as the Wildcats enter the OAA playoffs tonight.

With a mix of young players and veterans, OHS head coach Dave Hague said the team’s chemistry this year has been key to all the players buying into the systems and achieving success.

“It’s an enjoyable group of guys this year,” said Hague. “All 22 players are close and have a great deal of respect for each other. Often times you have groups of friends, but this season, it’s one large group of friends – almost too good of friends at times. We went to Canada to start the year and beat three good teams. We've had high expectations this year and I think when we returned, we got way ahead of ourselves. Expectations are one thing, but nothing successful in life comes without hard work and commitment. That's especially the case this season, where all eight teams in our division are strong. If there is a gap from one to eight, it’s not much of one.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard and we learned that earlier in the year. Hard work and discipline are a necessity and we've seem to have found a balance of that the last month or so.”

Senior goalie Adam Pardonoff is also elated at how well the Wildcats have played in front of him on a nightly basis.

“I think this season is a lot of fun,” Pardonoff said. “We got a lot of great players and we’re finally starting to put our talents together to play as a team and win games. We have improved the most as a team in our ability to stay disciplined and our ability to not get tired. Coach Dave has made sure we have legs and cardio. As a senior, I try to make sure the underclassmen work hard and have a lot of fun to be a part of the team.”

While the Wildcats’ roster inevitably changes each year, mostly due to seniors graduating, the new players that come aboard see right away that the Oxford program isn’t run like a typical high school organization.

“We were slow in the beginning, but we’re getting back in the groove,” freshman forward Tyler Majewski said. “As a freshman, I have learned how to play smarter hockey and to compete every time I'm on the ice. Coach Dave has been my best coach yet. The older guys have been nice and have let me in their group. They have helped me out a lot this season and gave me great tips so far.”

On the blue line, senior defenseman Kyle Schnettler said this year has been one to remember and he’s looking forward to the next few weeks.

 “The team has really come together over the past few weeks and we're really starting to look like a great team,” Schnettler said. “I think overall, we have improved in all aspects of the game, from our forwards, to defense, to our goalies. Everyone is playing their role; it's just great hockey. I would say the highlight of the season would be beating Lake Orion 2-0 at the Onyx (back on Jan. 12). That was a great game and was a special moment for everyone. For the rest of the season, I'm really hoping we play like we have been playing the last several games. We have been playing all three zones very well and hope to stay consistent.”

“My outlook for the rest of the season is very positive,” added Pardonoff. “We have been winning games and finally starting to try our hardest. We want to make a good run and move deep into playoffs.”

The OAA Red Division playoffs start tonight with Oxford playing Stoney Creek in the round one matchup at 5:45 p.m. at Farmington. The state playoffs begin Monday, Feb. 25, with Oxford and Romeo meeting in the first round. That game begins at 6:30 pm at Suburban Macomb.

For more information about the Oxford High School varsity hockey team, visit

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wildcats anxious to get ’12-13 OAA season underway

OXFORD, MI – If the first few games are any indication, the Oxford High School varsity hockey team should have plenty of skill, leadership and grit to get the Wildcats through the annual OAA grind.

Where they finish in the standings is anyone’s guess at this point, but optimism is certainly sky-high in Oxford.

“We're a veteran team and we really like our team speed and the chemistry amongst the guys appears good,” said OHS head coach Dave Hague, now in his 10th year as the Wildcats’ coach. “We can talk expectations and excitement all we want, though. To me, that doesn't mean a thing. We have a very difficult schedule this year and the OAA Red division is going to be very strong top to bottom. There is no doubt we're going to have to earn every bit of success.

“The only thing we're given is the opportunity and it will be up to our locker room to take advantage of it.”

Oxford junior forward Cody Wright feels from a player’s perspective that the Wildcats are primed for success.

 “I think we have a solid team that can go really far in the standings this year,” said Wright. “I think our tough schedule will just raise our compete level and make us a better team. Plus, I think we can play with all the teams as well. We have three solid goaltenders, four forward lines and strong defense. We have a lot of seniors, so I think experience will play a big factor.”

Senior forward Stephan Fritz, one of the team’s tri-captains this year along with senior forward Connor Novack and senior defenseman Brennen Orr, also sees the Wildcats as a team that will be tough to play against.

“I feel like we're going to be a very strong team that is always competitive,” Fritz said. “We are going to be a tight-knit team that works harder than anyone else and that's what will lead to our success. Obviously, we are in a very strong division, but that is only going to make us better. When we have opportunities to play teams that are well-matched against us, we perform better. Everyone knows that they have to be on the top of their game and it makes things very fun for us to compete and win against other talented teams.”

Wildcats’ assistant coach Rick Ignagni, who has been with the program since its inception 12 years ago, has seen the ups and downs at Oxford. He’s hoping this season has more of the same success OHS experienced during the 2011-12 season.

“This team is the closest in talent from top to bottom,” Ignagni said. “We move the puck well and we have speed. Years past, we could easily identify the top line or two, but this year, I see that it's going to come down to who is competing the hardest that will get the most ice. This year's team features 12 or 13 seniors and most of them have played together here for three or four years and many played together in youth hockey. These guys are about as close and tight as you would want a team to be and still be coachable.”

Oxford kicked off regular-season play with three wins this past weekend against Canadian high schools in the Kitchener, Ont., area. The Wildcats’ home opener is Wednesday, Nov. 28 against Bloomfield United at the Rochester Onyx.

Ignagni added that team goals are set to exceed expectations and this year’s aspirations are not out of reach.

“We plan on winning the league, but you can't measure success simply by wins and losses,” said Ignagni. “These boys will have a memorable experience both on and off the ice. We make sure they realize how blessed they are to play the greatest game on earth. Always strive to be the best, don't settle for average and if you play, play to win and always compete. If they remember those simple principles, they succeed off the ice, too.

”Our senior class no doubt will be our strength. I have been with the program 12 years and we have never graduated 12 seniors. They have a tremendous amount of maturity for high school kids) and there are no egos here. I think the other strength is Dave. He knows the game as good as anybody and makes sure these guys have an experience they never forget.”

The team’s three freshmen – goalie Nick Barrett, defenseman Ryan Kimbrough and forward Tyler Majewski – will be brought along at the proper pace.

”Our freshmen are going to be interesting to see develop,” explained Ignagni. “In years past, we counted on freshmen to chip in regularly because of numbers. This year, I think we can develop them properly and introduce them into the league at the right time.”

Overall, the confidence level for the Wildcats is through the roof right now with games on tap.

Speaking like a true captain and leader, Fritz said this season has the potential to be a special one in Oxford.

“Our strengths this year are going to come largely from two main components,” said Fritz. “First off, we're a smart, hard-working team that has a very high aspiration to go far this year. Secondly, we are an extremely close team and the fact that we all care about one another helps us out when we're going to battle in games for each player on the team.

“No one person is more important than the other, but all of us together with a mindset to win is going to be huge in our success this year.”

For more information on the Oxford High School varsity hockey team, please visit

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sled hockey experience very fun, very humbling

 Preseason hockey games are usually low-key and reserved, but not in the case of the Oxford High School varsity team, who played a sled hockey game against the Michigan Sled Dogs, a team of disabled adults, last Saturday at Suburban Ice-Macomb.

Sled hockey is just how it sounds – players sit on sleds with blades and play the game of hockey with traditional rules and camaraderie.

The game, which may become an annual traditional between the two teams, had been in the works for a while.

“A few years ago, the Hartford Insurance Company was doing a “Get Familiar with Sled Hockey” day in Troy and that’s where I met (Oxford head coach) Dave Hague,” explained Sled Dogs’ captain and co-manager Marc Henretta. “Being both ‘hockey guys,’ we became friends. After that, Dave thought it would be a good idea to have his boys’ able-bodied team play against us, but we’d play them in sleds. I believe Dave felt it would be a great learning experience for his able-bodied team to see how hard others have to work, to play the game we all love.”

For the OHS players, the afternoon was something many of them said they won’t soon forget.

“Playing with the Sled Dogs was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us,” said junior forward Luke Novack. “Although it was very difficult to do, it was still a ton of fun. It was especially cool to meet all the players on the Sled Dogs and hear their stories. Playing with the Sled Dogs was very inspiring. Even though they were paralyzed, they found a way to play the sport that they loved. It meant a lot for them to come out and show us how to play sled hockey.

“This experience really humbled me.”

Wildcats’ senior goalie Justin Gizinski said he was awestruck by what he went through on the ice.

“What isn't there to say about the experience we had?” said Gizinski. “It was not only physically challenging in the sense that it was the hardest thing I've ever done in an ice rink, but it was also emotionally challenging to see some really cool guys plagued with a very inconvenient misfortune and to see how positive they were was the best part. No matter what, they constantly challenged themselves to do better all while never resenting us for having a little more luck in life.”

“It was definitely a new experience, but it was amazing to see what they could do sitting on two blades a half-inch apart,” added senior forward Jon Buday. “Seeing the paraplegics play made me realize how well people adapt to the situations they are given and made me thankful for everything I have. It’s extremely important to give back to the community like this because it keeps everybody close, opens your eyes and gets you experiencing things many people don't have the chance to do.”

Henretta received positive feedback from both sides, further pushing the topic of making this game a yearly event just prior to the high school season getting started.

“These are always a win-win for both teams,” Henretta said. “The OHS boys get to see how we play and we get to see how able-bodied boys play sled hockey. The Oxford boys did a nice job of playing sled hockey, especially since most of them had never played sled hockey before. Some of the comments I received from the OHS guys were, ‘Wow – the Sled Dogs are really, really good’ or ‘I can’t believe how sore my arms and shoulders are’ or ‘I can’t believe how fast Jesus Villa can skate and it’s even more remarkable how hard he can shoot – and they all shoot with only one arm.’

“We always enjoy playing the OHS team, as well as other able-bodied teams in the area. These types of events help the Michigan Sled Dogs fund raise and as we all know, playing hockey is not cheap, so the generous donations collected by the OHS team go a long way to help the Sled Dogs pay for ice, travel and equipment. We’d definitely look forward to playing OHS again.”

Gizinski summarized the day in a profound manner.

”What I think we all got from all of this is that no matter what, do not take anything for granted because one morning, you may wake up and lose something that makes life a lot easier, just like what may have happened to some of these guys we played against,” said Gizinski. “No matter how bad you think things are for you, there's always someone who's worse off, so just be positive.”

For more information on the Oxford High School varsity hockey team, visit

For more information on the Michigan Sled Dogs, visit

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oxford to be part of Hockeytown Winter Festival

OXFORD, MI – The Oxford High School varsity hockey program continues to provide opportunities to its student-athletes.

After completing a successful 2011-12 season, the Wildcats will have at least one high-profile game during the 2012-13 campaign and it is shaping up to be an exciting event – outdoors.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18 as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival, Oxford will battle long-standing rival Lake Orion at Comerica Park with puck drop slated for 2:30 p.m.

Other high school games will also be part of the event.

“We had the chance to play outdoors two years ago at Michigan Stadium (defeating Troy, 4-1, on Dec. 9, 2010) and it was a remarkable experience,” said Oxford head coach Dave Hague. “Playing outdoors in the heart of Hockeytown at a venue like Comerica Park will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players. It will be great as well to have family, friends, fans and faculty all get a chance to be involved in such a unique event.”

“I’m very excited to play outdoors this year and I'm looking forward to that the most out of everything,” said senior defenseman Kyle Schnettler. “This will be my first outdoor game, but playing against our rival will bring a lot of intensity to the game, especially that it's an outdoor game playing in front of your friends and family.”

Senior forward Jimmy Wallington is equally as excited to get outside and play Lake Orion. Neither Schnettler nor Wallington played in the 2010 outdoor game for the Wildcats.

“I am very excited about the outdoor game,” added Wallington. “Having the privilege to play at Comerica Park is one thing, but playing our biggest rivals there is just unreal. It is going to be one of the most exciting games I have ever played in. The fact that we are playing Lake Orion and it is an outdoor game is pretty awesome. I think it will make it a lot more intense because of all the hype that is being built up now that we all know who we're playing there. It won't be a game to miss.”

The outdoor games are just another step in Michigan high school hockey gaining more and more exposure and publicity on a regional level.

At the NHL Entry Draft in June, three former high school stars were drafted – 2012 “Mr. Hockey” winner Mackenzie MacEachern (Brother Rice/St. Louis Blues), Connor Hellebuyck (Walled Lake Northern/Winnipeg Jets) and 2011 co-“Mr. Hockey” winner Ben Johnson (Calumet/New Jersey Devils).

MacEachern was drafted straight out of Brother Rice, while Hellebuyck (NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes) and Johnson (OHL’s Windsor Spitfires) played junior hockey last year.

For more information on the Oxford High School varsity hockey team, visit

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

OHS grad Perks anxious for junior hockey career

WATERFORD, MI – Tim Perks came to the Metro Jets last year as a highly-touted prospect that put up solid numbers at Oxford High School during the 2010-11 season.

Even after a torn ACL sidelined him just prior to last season, Perks didn’t sulk. Instead, he stayed with the Jets all season and went through extensive rehab to help heal his bum knee.

“Sitting out for a season was brutal, especially my first shot at junior hockey,” said Perks, who was drafted by Metro in the fourth round (52nd overall) of the 2011 NA3HL draft. “A lot of people told me it was a setback, but I thought it more as an opportunity to improve my game in all aspects and see hockey in a new perspective. I had some rough moments, but I needed to keep focus to make sure I have a positive comeback."

While he’s still not 100 percent, the Jets offered Perks a tender for this coming season and the 19-year-old signed it without hesitation.

”The docs and therapist said it’s a year-long recovery,” Perks said. “I’m cleared for contact, so I need to make sure I’m not doing anything stupid and focus on recovering. I haven’t played a true hockey game for a team in over a year. I couldn’t be more excited at this point to just be able to play hockey again.”

Oxford High School is getting a reputation for advancing kids on to juniors and college hockey. Perks said that playing for the Wildcats didn’t feel like a typical after-school activity.

”They have a great hockey program and each year, I always hear something new and exciting,” said Perks, who graduated from OHS in 2011. “I believe they love having fun, teaching the kids and making great memories. (Coaches) Dave (Hague) and Rick (Ignagni) treat you like adults and bring in some junior hockey mentality into the program, which helped me out a lot. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn from that group of guys.”

Perks, who describes himself as a “talented forward who has finesse, but plays physical with a chip on my shoulder,” said he’s anxious for the 2012-13 season to get underway.

“I personally expect a lot out of myself,” said Perks. “I have talent and a good work ethic and there is no reason for me to fall behind even if I have missed a year.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wildcats continue to win on and off the ice

OXFORD, MI – These days, the Oxford High School varsity hockey team is not only winning on the ice, but winning in a significant way off the ice as well.

After all, the feeling of beating the opposition only lasts until the next game, while making strides in the community can last a lifetime.

This season, Wildcat players have put in time at Oxford Elementary School reading to children, at the Waterstone Senior Village to interact with the residents and just this week, welcomed Oxford special education students to practice at the Troy Sports Center (pictured above) as part of a “learn to skate” event where the students also rode the team bus to and from practice.

“I think it’s very important for athletes to be role models because a lot of people are watching and looking up to them, so setting a good example is an important key to being a great athlete,” said Oxford junior forward Stephan Fritz.

“The kids who look up to us see us doing good things tend to aspire to also do good things,” added junior forward Jimmy Wallington. “We try to have a positive attitude on everything and just show how fun it is to be representing our school on the ice.”

Sophomore forward Luke Novack said going to the elementary school was fun and rewarding.

“It was cool because when we walked into the classroom, all the kids went crazy,” said Novack. “It was a lot of fun to play math games with them, even though I lost every time. Going to the school was a great experience and if asked, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Spending time with senior citizens over the holidays had the same type of goodwill feeling.

“It was a great time going to the senior home with the boys,” Fritz said. “It's always nice to get out into the community and know you're making a difference in some people’s lives that don't always get to experience something like that. You can tell they enjoy the company and its just fun to spend some time with the residents and hear their stories.”

This past Monday, the special education kids got to experience firsthand what it takes to not only be a hockey player, but all the preparation it takes just to skate at practice.

“It was a really great experience, I really enjoyed it and I think everyone involved did, too,” said OHS junior defenseman Brennen Orr. “I felt really good about myself helping them learn how to skate.”

“I had a great time teaching those kids how to skate,” sophomore forward Cody Wright said. “It was a big deal for them and we will never know how much that impacted their lives. I was just glad to do it.”

After beating Lapeer United 4-2 last night at home during Senior Night, the Wildcats (13-6-2 overall, 2-4-1 OAA Red) are now looking ahead to the Red Division playoffs that start Friday night against Farmington at 8:45 p.m. at the Onyx in Rochester.

Obviously, the team has its goals set extremely high.

“We have a shot to win the league after moving up a second year in a row and that's really exciting to the team, especially since many people don't believe we will be able to pull it off again,” said Fritz. “We just have to take it one step at a time and work harder than ever. Playoffs this year are looking good and we have a strong, deep team that's looking to go far.

“With the work we've put in, it's not unrealistic that we'll be at states when that whole thing gets started.”

“The Red playoffs are very important to our team, especially the seniors,” Novack said. “A lot of teams in the league think that we won’t even be a .contender, which makes us want to win it that much more. We are ready to compete and bring back some hardware for the school.”

Other first-round matchups have Clarkston taking on Stoney Creek, Farmington Hills Unified battling Rochester United and Lake Orion tangling with Birmingham Unified.

The Red Division semi-finals go Saturday at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena with championship games taking place on Feb. 25 at the Birmingham Ice Arena.

Click here to view the playoff bracket for the Red Division.

For more information on the Oxford High School varsity hockey team, please visit

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Schlueter playing to potential, eyeing improvement

OXFORD, MI – What a difference a year makes.

Last season, Alex Schlueter didn’t have the type of year he wanted to have as a freshman on the Oxford High School hockey team. He’ll be the first one to admit that.

This year, though, is a different story as the steady defenseman has “shot out of a cannon,” according to OHS head coach Dave Hague.

“Alex is a completely different player this season,” Hague said. “He was a little raw last season as most freshmen tend to be, but this year when I watch him, it’s a whole new player. Alex put in the work to be a better player and it has showed from day one of this season.”

“I would have to admit that I am very happy with my season so far,” said Schlueter matter-of-factly. “I feel that I have played to my full potential nearly every time I step out on the ice. This differs from last year because I just couldn’t seem to unlock my full potential. The atmosphere was new and I think my nerves greatly hindered my abilities.

“I credit my improvement strictly to hard work. Hard work is the key to unlocking all your abilities on and off the ice. The best way for me to keep improving is to continue to listen to my coaches, work hard and compete every shift, every practice, and every workout. It’s as simple as that.”

Playing mostly on a blue line pairing with senior Dean Couwlier, Schlueter said he’s had instant chemistry, crucial to a defense pair clicking.

“I feel Dean makes it so easy to play with him,” said Schlueter. “We set up simple and effective plays that we run, without flaw, in games.”

On a team level, Schlueter said there is no better situation that playing for the Wildcats and continuing the tradition that has become successful Oxford hockey.

“We are nothing short of a family,” said Schlueter. “We spend virtually every day with each other and we wouldn't have it any other way. It does not surprise me when I hear about our players turning down these higher level teams to stay here and play for Oxford. I know I would certainly have trouble leaving.

“I plan on staying as long as possible. I honestly think that if I did take an offer somewhere else that I would eventually end up back on the Oxford squad. I've played hockey since I was little and I have never played on a team quite like Oxford. There's something about it that just grasps you and holds you in.”

Schlueter also has a maturity level about him that is both ambitious and realistic.

Take, for example, his goals in hockey. He wants to continue to improve defensively to where he can play in power-play situations and down the road, he has NHL aspirations, along with going to college.

“Though I feel that most statistics do not accurately display a player’s ability and are not nearly as important as some players make them out to be, I think that plus-minus is a very important stat to keep track of,” said Schlueter. “My current plus-minus is not bad at all, but another ongoing short-term goal of mine is to improve my plus-minus.

“My long-term hockey goals are the same since I started playing hockey in the fourth grade – to play in the NHL.”

While the NHL is a dream only few can realize, it’s a dream worth having, added Schlueter. After all, if he was “raw” last season and superb this season, who knows what the future holds?


The OAA league Red Division seeding and playoff assignments have been determined. First-round playoff action gets underway next Friday (Feb. 17) at the Onyx in Rochester.

Oxford will face Farmington at 8:45 p.m.

Other first-round matchups have Clarkston taking on Stoney Creek, Farmington Hills Unified battling Rochester United and Lake Orion tangling with Birmingham Unified.

The Red Division semi-finals go the following day at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena with championship games taking place on Feb. 25 at the Birmingham Ice Arena.

Click here to view the playoff bracket for the Red Division.

For more information on the Oxford High School varsity hockey team, please visit