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AURORA -- As the Greenmen varsity ice hockey squad wrapped up another busy season, head coach John Sheridan had a lot of great memories after his 13th year on the bench.
"What a great ride this season was," said the veteran coach. "Definitely some emotional moments and a lot of things our players should be proud of."
The Greenmen finished with a 14-13-1 overall record, their second consecutive winning season, finishing in third place out of seven teams in the Blue North Division of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League.
Highlights from the season included a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory against Canfield on Youth Night in late December and then tying Avon Lake three days later. That was Avon Lake's only blemish on its 11-0-1 division record.
The locals qualified for the Baron Cup III for the fifth time in school history, and knocked off Parma Normandy and upset Brooklyn in overtime to make it to the championship contest for the first time ever, where they fell to CVCA in overtime.
The locals' season ended two nights later in the state playoffs to CVCA once again -- this time in double overtime.
"In all my years of coaching, that last week of the year is one of the greatest rides I've ever seen," said Sheridan. "Those last four games had so many swings of emotion and so many great moments.
"We came up short in the Baron Cup and in the first-round state playoff game, but I was so proud of our guys. They gave it everything they had and made some incredible memories along the way."
The Greenmen displayed a powerful offense, averaging more than 4 goals a game, and were led by juniors Tomi Pirinen and Joe Capretta, who finished with 75 and 73 points, respectively. Sophomore Jack Pfiffner often joined the two on the same line and finished with 28 points.
"Tomi and Joe were obviously a dynamic duo for our team, and two of the best players in our league," said Sheridan. "They know each other's tendencies on the ice and are able to create so much offense. They really clicked well with Pfiffner as the season wore on also, and that line was a force to be reckoned with."
Senior team captain Nick Capretta led the second line, finishing with 23 points, and ended his high school run with 92 career points.
"I just can't say enough great things about Nick. He was our captain the last two years, was a great player, a tremendous leader on and off the ice, and a great student as well," said Sheridan.
"He scored one of the biggest goals in school history against Brooklyn in the Baron Cup. What a fitting memory for him to end his hockey career with. He'll be sorely missed."
Nick Capretta was often joined by seniors Ian Houston and Corey Pajek, junior Mike Avalon and freshman Jack McElwee.
"We usually juggled the players on that second line, but all of them stepped up and contributed, not only scoring, but playing good defense."
Rounding out the forwards were senior Michael Carnahan, junior Chad Vermillion, sophomores Alec Houston and Evan Dockman and freshmen Cooper Jochum, Sarah Vince, Samantha Bjelopera, Saverio Sharrotta, and Charlie Pilarczyk.
"We're really a young group, and all of those players improved so much this year," the coach said. "I'm excited to see the underclassmen in the future."
On defense, the Greenmen allowed just 3.54 goals per game, their best average since 2007, and were led by senior Dominic Hesmondhalgh.
"Hesmondhalgh is a great story. He had never played hockey before joining the team in 10th grade, and two years later was a dominant force on defense in our league," said Sheridan. "He had size and wasn't afraid to be physical, and just ate up a ton of minutes on the ice as the season wore on."
Seniors Dominic Sharrotta and Sakurako Reed, junior Cole Rausch and freshmen Maxx Goldston and Patrick Murray also saw regular time on defense.
"We had the strongest defensive corps that AHS has seen in quite a few years. I credit all of those players for stepping it up when their number was called," said Sheridan.
For goaltenders, the locals had a tandem of senior Joey Brockway and sophomore Jordan Smith.
Brockway finished with 10 wins, 520 saves and one shutout, and also played outstanding in the Baron Cup, boasting an impressive .941 save percentage in the three contests.
"Brockway came up absolutely huge for us as at the end of the year. He had an incredible streak of games during the Baron Cup, and played the best hockey of his career in the most important moments," said the coach.
Smith finished the season with four wins and 261 saves. "Jordan is a young player who has such a bright future, and we're so lucky to have him for two more years. He has the potential to be one of the top goalies in the division," said Sheridan.
Joe Capretta was named first team all-league and first team all-division, Hesmondhalgh was named first team all-division and Pirinen was named second team all-division. Seniors Capretta, Dominic Sharrotta, Reed and Pajek all graduated as four-year letterman.
Although graduating several seniors, Sheridan is optimistic about the future of the team. "All of our seniors will be missed, but we're excited and looking for an even better year next season. The sky's the limit," concluded Sheridan.