OXFORD, MI – Nick Hocker and Connor Novack are veteran players with the Oxford High School hockey team and while both have had opportunities to leave high school hockey, they both have stayed with the hopes that a state championship can be housed in Oxford.
Hocker, a senior forward, and Novack (pictured), one year younger and also a forward, are both happy with their decisions to stay in Northern Oakland County and suit up for the Wildcats, last season’s OAA White champions who now play in the Red division.
“Playing AAA is good hockey, but then again our coaches (Dave Hague and Rick Ignagni) do a good job at getting our names out there and helping us out,” said Novack. “Most of all, it is just fun to play for your school and all of your friends.”
“Everyone seems to get along and connect really well this year,” said Hocker. “I think this creates great chemistry between everyone and transfers over to our play on the ice and helps us work better together. We have a great coaching staff and a team that always wants to compete and win. Every time we step on the ice, we have a chance to win any game.”
Hocker is currently second overall in OAA scoring behind linemate Nolan Chapman. Those two play on a wing with Stephan Fritz at center. That entire line is 1-2-3 in OAA scoring, not an easy feat when one considers the competition level of the league.
“The competition in league play has greatly improved,” said Hocker. “I think it's more fun to play hockey with your friends that you go to school with because you can get a lot closer to everyone.”
“We have had some good flow this year with our lines,” Novack added. “Our team gets along really well together and we have added some good players to the roster. Our team has found our roles on the ice. We try to do all the little things right and when we do, we get rewarded.”
Both Novack and Hocker attribute most of the team’s success to Hague and Ignagni.
“Our coaches are one of a kind,” Novack said. “They care about us so much and would do anything to help us out. They are great coaches, they get us motivated and they know the game extremely well.”
“Coach Rick has been with the program since day one and has given the reputation that the team has today through many hours of hard work,” said Hocker. “That goes along with Coach Dave as well and they would give anything for any of us on the team. They put the team before anything else in their life and push us to get better and better every day.”
Two weeks ago, OHS traveled to Madison, Wis., to play in a holiday tournament against several teams from Wisconsin and the surrounding areas.
Hocker said the experience was a blast.
“It was a lot of fun to travel out of state and play teams from different states and see what the competition was like,” Hocker beamed. “When you go play in different states, it helps get the Oxford name out to these states. This then opens up great opportunities for future kids playing on the team and gives Oxford as a whole a much better name.”
Last season, the Wildcats played outdoors at Michigan Stadium, a game they won over Troy High School. Last weekend, Oxford was offered a chance to play at Progressive Field in Cleveland, but couldn’t match up schedules with a school from Ohio.
Obviously, as the Oxford program expands, more opportunity comes the Wildcats’ way.
Still, at the end of the day, nothing beats playing high school hockey, according to Novack.
“Playing for OHS is very different than playing for another team outside of school,” Novack said. “It is a privilege to play for your school and wear the colors and represent them.
“All of your friends get to see you play and it is a lot of fun.”
The fun is proving to have positive results, too, as Oxford is off to a 9-2-1 start.
For more information on the OHS hockey team, please visit www.OxfordHockey.com.