by Scott Springer, Community Press
KENWOOD - If there was a statistical category for mileage, Moeller High School's hockey team would be among state leaders in Ohio. Playing in a conference based out of Columbus, the Crusaders have seen as many interstate mile markers as some freight drivers.
Bypassing the local prep league for better competition, Moeller skates in the Capital Hockey Conference White Division with Upper Arlington, Gahanna Lincoln and St. Francis DeSales. The Red Division features St. Charles, Olentangy Orange, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Coffman and Olentangy Liberty. The Blue has Olentangy, Worthington Kilbourne, Bishop Watterson, Thomas Worthington and Dublin Scioto.
As good as the Greater Catholic League, Greater Miami Conference and other hockey-playing schools are in Cincinnati, the Columbus quality of play is better overall thanks to its northern location and the influence of the NHL Bluejackets.
"We played the No. 1 team in the state twice this year," Moeller coach Mike Reeder said. "We played the No. 3 team in the state and the No. 6 and No. 8. We played all of the top 10 except for a couple. It's been a very challenging year."
At presstime, the Crusaders were 10 games under .500 overall and were looking for a fourth league win. Reeder likes his team's effort and many of the younger players have improved.
"It's hard to see when you're playing such tough competition week in and week out," Reeder said. "When we do play a team that's at a lower level, you can see the difference."
In addition to being around Columbus most weekends, the Crusaders recently traveled to Toledo over the Martin Luther King holiday and were in Bowling Green just after Christmas. The highlight of the hockey itinerary came during the team's Thanksgiving trip.
"Notre Dame!" Reeder answered quickly. "The Compton Family Center is spectacular. It's Rome away from Rome for us. A lot of us went to Mass. It was about hockey, but it wasn't just about hockey."
The bonding was special and over time Reeder has seen incremental maturity from his group.
The Crusaders have six seniors and Drew Denoyer is one of the high energy and effort leaders. He excels in blocking shots and making passes to scorers like Jake Fessel and Ben Sattler. Fessel is exploring college hockey opportunities, while Sattler swings a driver in the non-winter months and will attend Ohio University on a golf scholarship.
"When you see us play, those guys stand out," Reeder said. "When they score, we do well."
The pair also serve as big brothers to the "little brothers" on the team like freshmen Jack Stahanczyk, Jake Hardesty and Tom Capano. Capano may be a name to remember on Moeller squads in years to come.
"He's loaded with potential and has stepped his game up," Reeder said. "He's got 'big boy' size, but he's still 14 or 15 years old. He's got the hardest shot on the team. He's the next era."
The current crop of Crusaders have one more home game at Cincinnati Gardens Feb. 5 against Bishop Watterson. The regular season finale is at Worthington Kilbourne Feb. 7. [Read More]