In each of the past two seasons the Gabriel Richard hockey team has reached the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 state semifinals.
This year, they’d like to do a little better and coach Rick DeSana’s team appears to be in a better position to do that than it has in years.
“This is the deepest team I have ever had,” said DeSana, who has been Richard’s coach for 15 seasons now. “We should be pretty solid. I’d say this is as good a shape as we have been in in my time here. We have a good mix of seven seniors and a good group of sophomores and freshmen to back then up and we have strong goaltending.”
That goaltending comes in the form of Drew Adams, a senior and a three-year starter for the Pioneers.
“He has been our backbone,” said DeSana. “He has carried us to back-to-back state semifinal berths.”
Adams will be backed up by sophomore Nick Abrahamson.
The other six seniors on the team are divided among the forwards and the defensemen.
Austin Harrison and Nathan Vazquez and elite-level snipers.
“Those guys really give our offense some punch,” DeSana said. And their classmate, Austin Kissell is “an excellent playmaker,” according to the coach. Alex Mastrogiacomo is the other senior forward on the squad.
The defense starts with another pair of well-seasoned veterans.
Jake Emery and Nathan Palumbo was each four-year players, who add strength and experience to the six-man defensive squad.
“They are both very strong defesemen,” said DeSana. “And they give me something I have never had before – two lockdown defensive pairs. If the other team has two high-scoring lines, I can match them defensively.”
The rest of the roster is rounded out by, sophomores Aden Wishart, Gavin Fink, Matt Vazquez, Nathan Schwein, Sebastian Potter, Vinny Sensoli and freshmen Brenden Paden, Brody Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Monks, Nic DiSanto and Robbie Chiles.
The depth of this year’s team gives DeSana something else: The ability to rest his better players throughout the course of a game.
“It allows my top guys to play fresh,” DeSana said. “That’s a big deal and it truly makes a difference. Before I’d have to have my best guys out there are all the big times, now I can trust the younger guys to give them a rest.”
On paper it looks like the Pioneers can skate with anyone and on the ice, so far, they have pretty much proen that.
Through its first five games, the team is 3-2 with blowout wins over Carlson, Sault Ste. Maei and Negaunee and one-goal losses to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook.