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?
ON TAP: RED DIVISION PLAYOFFS
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 www.OxfordHockey.com