September 3rd, 2017 2:52 PM
Liam Burns, a top scorer/playmaker for the OPRF hockey team, celebrates after scoring a goal. (Photo by Dawn Gonzalez)
Oak Park and River Forest High School hockey coach Dave Dyson embodies commitment and dedication for the sport. On and off the ice, he has played a monumental role in developing high school players across Illinois. Among many impressive accomplishments, he coached the prestigious Illinois high school hockey Showcase Team for three years and received two awards for program building.
Entering his fifth season as the Huskies' head coach, Dyson has created a new brand of exciting OPRF hockey inside the Paul Hruby Ice Arena at Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex.
The Huskies begin the season by hosting the Ridgeland Crosstown Classic (Sept. 8-10). The three-day tournament, featuring OPRF, Fenwick, Stevenson and Benet, will include a round-robin format with all games played at Ridgeland Common.
Of course, the marquee matchup is OPRF vs. Fenwick on Sep. 9 at 6:50 p.m.
"We have not played Fenwick since I have been the coach at OPRF," Dyson said. "I'm most looking forward to the atmosphere in the arena. Fenwick is always very talented so I expect a great turnout by the fans who will be ready to watch an entertaining game."
Known for solid coaching and goaltending, the Friars will present quite a challenge for the Huskies.
"The key for us will be to create traffic in front of their net," Dyson said. "We also will need to keep their top goal scorers from getting clean looks in good scoring areas."
While OPRF-Fenwick is the rivalry renewed game, the Huskies can expect stern tests from Stevenson and Benet.
"This tournament is a great opportunity for us to look at our new team and see where we stand against top-tier competition," Dyson said.
Senior captain Spencer Smith loves the idea of hosting a tournament to kick off the Huskies' 2017-2018 campaign.
"I can't think of a better way to start the season," Smith said. "Getting the stands rowdy is a great way to give hockey the representation it deserves."
OPRF is focused on continuing its upward trend under Dyson. Two seasons ago, the Huskies made an Elite 8 run in the state playoffs, before losing to eventual state champion New Trier. Last year, the Huskies went 33-18-1 with a second-place finish in their league playoffs.
With several key returners this season, the Huskies appear poised for another stellar season.
"We play a nice defensive game, collectively, and we do a good job of possessing the puck," Dyson said. "This year we have to work on eliminating slow starts and capitalizing on our scoring chances."
Team leaders include Smith, Liam Burns, RJ Jones, Patrick Schmidt, PJ Gonzalez, Max Goldstein, Will DeCaro, Abraham Berlin, Hank Burkett and Avery Anderson.
OPRF will employ a strength in numbers approach at both ends of the rink.
"Our biggest strength this year is our roster depth," Smith said. "Everyone contributes in their own way and we all do a good job of carrying energy in practice and games.
"We're setting the bar high now because our long term is nothing short of a league title, and hopefully a state title as well."
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.
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