Not unlike in the Wizard of Oz, Lake Catholic head hockey coach Ryan Okicki wants you to pay little attention to Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to St. Ignatius.
Heading into tonight’s 9 p.m. tussle at Shaker Heights, Okicki would rather put the whole affair behind him and turn your attention to the team’s 3-1 mark in the recent DiPaolo Memorial Thanksgiving Tournament held at Oxford.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to acknowledge what happened against the Wildcats, it’s just that some nights aren’t your night, and it’s best to move on and look to the future.
“It’s kind of tough to talk about it,” Okicki said of the St. Ignatius game.
No worries really. After all, St. Ignatius is tough in just about everything. What’s most important is that Wednesday’s game hasn’t discouraged Okicki. While the coach’s aggressive style didn’t work against the Wildcats, it was nonetheless plenty useful around Turkey Day.
In the tournament, lost to Liberty (3-2), but defeated Cincinnati Moeller (7-0), Talawanda (8-2) and Amherst (3-2) for third place.
“We were very strong with our offense. We were moving the puck well, attacking the net, shooting the puck,” Okicki said. “Our big thing is our speed up front, and we have four guys that have a ton of speed up there who can do a lot of the hard work for us.”
Okicki, a 2003 Lake Catholic graduate, is in his first year coaching at Lake Catholic and came to the Cougars after coaching Orange to a 41-11-2 record over the last four years.
He takes over a Lake Catholic team that finished 14-17-4 and was a Baron Cup I finalist last season. Lake Catholic fell in the district semifinals to Gilmour Academy, 3-1. He’s attempting to implement the same system he operated with Orange.
“I’m very team-oriented. I love to see the puck move. I love to see creativity. I love to see the kids create their own opportunities,” Okicki said. “The biggest problem we’re having is the kids seeing the plays develop and creating their opportunities themselves. I played defense, but I’m very offensive.”
Okicki sees Anthony Nalipa, Joe Duffy, Luke Turk and Alex Piazza as being the aforementioned big scorers up front.
Defensively, Okicki said he’d put seniors Brian Anthony, the team captain, and Kevin Bruss against any other pair in the state. Defenseman Jake Denner was suspended for two games for a violation during Thanksgiving tournament and missed the game against St. Ignatius.
Senior Keith Parker is in goal and Jake Denner’s freshman brother Charlie is the backup.
Currently, Okicki is trying to put together three consistent lines and coping with depth issues both defensively and offensively, but one thing he won’t do is bore the audience with stagnant play.
“I love to see plays created. That’s my style,” Okicki said. “I’m not dump-and-chase. I’m not banging the bodies. It’s a part of the game. Those are things you have to do, but I’m all about puck possession.”