Aurora -- With an influx of young athletes, the Aurora High School ice hockey program is looking to build this season.
After going 5-19-1 overall last year, the Greenmen hope to compete this season, and head coach John Sheridan, entering his 10th season at the helm, does not mince words when it comes to his club's rebuilding phase.
"It may be tough early on because we have a roster primarily filled with first-year players," said Sheridan, whose club will compete in the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League's Blue East Division.
"This team lost a lot of key people to graduation," added the mentor. "We are rebuilding and the athletes and coaches are committed to building the team."
Aurora does have seven returning starters and 19 athletes in the program, which is the most in more than five years.
Team captains this season will be junior defender-forward Brandt Vermillion, along with senior defender-forward Kenny Pope and senior forward Kelly Sheridan.
Other seniors on the roster include forward-defender Alex Avalon, forward Michael Lachowski and forward Joel Stell. Junior Matt Taft is a first-year goalie, and is backed up by sophomore Jarrett Lachowski. Taft also can play forward.
"We still have a way to go to gain experience," said Sheridan. "Taft is a first-year starter at goalie and he has great promise. Much like our team, he will only get better with work."
Key juniors for Aurora are forwards Jacob Wisniewski, Lanny Ilg and Emily Boysza. Sophomores include forwards Matt Vince, Kevin Hutchinson and Oliver Ketonen, who also can play defense.
A STRONG freshman class includes forward-defender Colin Kearney, plus forwards Sakurako Reed, Corey Pajek, Dominic Sharrotta, Nick Capretta and Patrick Windsor.
"Everyone has the mindset to improve and get better each time we are on the ice," said Sheridan.
"We want to get as many kids interested as possible in ice hockey and the entire area is in the same boat as we are [regarding experience, time on the ice and resources for the program].
"We just need to work and as long as we head in the right direction, we are in good shape."
Aurora will open league play Dec. 6 at 8:40 p.m. against Nordonia at The Pond. The Greenmen play at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills against West Geauga in league play on Dec. 8 (4:45 p.m.).
The Wolverines are the defending champions, while Twinsburg was a close second a year ago.
In non-league action, AHS will host Avon on Dec. 13 at 8:40 p.m. and face Notre Dame Cathedral Latin on Dec. 14 at the Mentor Civic Arena (6 p.m.) before playing a league game against Twinsburg on Dec. 15 at Garfield Heights' Dan Kostel Arena (5:30 p.m.).
Aurora also will offer its annual alumni skate Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at The Pond, while youth night is set for Jan. 12 against NDCL at The Pond (5:45 p.m.).
Last season, Aurora lost 6-1 loss to North Canton Hoover (24-8) in Kent district tournament play. Hoover dominated, but Aurora outshot the Vikings in the final period.