Despite the small roster, Varsity Olentangy Orange Hockey saw success in their future, and they did not disappoint. With overwhelming talent and leadership along with a new coaching staff, the boys overcame adversity and crushed the competition for a great 2020-2021 season, breaking records right and left. First season head coach Brenton Baskie said, “We have some top-end talent here. We may not be that deep, but we have a lot of talent.”
To start off their season, the boys competed in the annual Pioneer Classic Tournament. During the first day, the ‘Neers competed against the Newark Generals. The Pioneers won 4-0, with Mercer getting the shutout. Seniors Hart, E. Muth, C. Headlee, and Knupp all buried the goals. Starting up again the next day, the boys played against Thomas Worthington. Winning the match 5-1, C. Headlee led the team with a hat trick, and Knupp added the other two. Right after, the Pioneers played North Royalton losing a close physical game 3-2. Making it to the championship game, the boys matched up against Talawanda. Hendrickson, Knupp, and C. Headlee all contributed goals and goalie Kyle Diehr had an outstanding performance acting as a brick wall for the opposing team as the Pioneers won the Pioneer Classic Tournament game 3-1.
“While I am on the ice, I love playing behind my teammates because I’m the last line of defense. I get motivated by watching them connect with eachother while competing,” Goalie Kyle Diehr stated. “During big games, I try not to stay calm and keep my game simple while encouraging my teammates.”
Next off, the Pioneers traveled downtown to the Ice Haus to compete against Upper Arlington on Jan. 22. The Pioneers had a rough start as the Golden Bears were up 0-1 in the first period and received a total of eight power play minutes in the second as a result of four Orange penalties. After a quiet second period on both ends of the ice, Orange bounced back in the third with two goals from Hendrickson and P. Muth, defeating Upper Arlington with a big 2-1 win.
On Jan. 27, the hockey team traveled to Easton to play a big game against New Albany, and the Pioneers played 60 minutes of straight offense scoring a high amount of goals. Just in the first period, Senior Clayton Headlee led the team with a hat trick. On top of Headlee’s speed, Austin Knupp buried another three for a hat trick of his own. Payton Muth scored the last goal, defeating New Albany 8-4.
Hockey celebrated Senior Night on Jan. 29. The Pioneers played against Olentangy Liberty while honoring their six seniors Austin Knupp, Ethan Muth, Payton Muth, Clayton Headlee, Weston Newton, and Max Hart. Unfortunately, the ‘Neer’s could not keep up with the Patriots, falling 2-6.
On Feb. 7, your Olentangy Orange Pioneers matched up against the Berlin Bears for their last regular season game. After a strong first period for the Bears winning by three goals, the Pioneers picked it back up in the second with goals from Knupp and P. Muth bringing the score after 40 minutes to be 2-4. In a big third period, Knupp scored two more for a hat trick with help for P. Muth with another goal. Unfortunately, Olentangy Berlin was able to keep the lead for the entire night, resulting in a 5-7 loss for the Pioneers.
On Feb. 11, the annual CBJ Cup began at the Ice Haus. For the first round, the boys went up against Dublin Jerome. With a quick start ten seconds into the game, P. Muth buries the puck into the back of the opponents net. Throughout the next 40 minutes the Pioneers pushed the score to be 3-0 with goals from Knupp and Perry. With ten seconds left in the game, C. Headlee scored another to win 4-1 against the Celtics. On Feb. 13, the Pioneers played against St. Charles for the CBJ Cup semi final. After a quiet 40 minutes from both teams, St. Charles broke the silence in the third period with a lone goal. After many scoring chances and a tough game, the Pioneers lose to the Cardinals, finishing off their CBJ Cup run.
Saturday Feb. 20 signified the start of the state tournament for the Pioneers. After a bye in the first round, the boys competed against St. Xavier in the second round. In the first 20 minutes, the ‘Neers were on fire scoring three goals and a hat trick from Knupp, as well as one from the stick of P. Muth. In the second period P. Muth scored a second to bring the score to 5-1 in favor of the Pioneers. After a little break in scoring during the second period, the boys scored three more in the last 20 minutes from C. Headlee, G. Headlee, and Hendrickson. After an electrifying 60 minutes, the boys defeated St. Xavier 7-1.
With his assist in the first period, Senior Clayton Headlee would become the all-time career assist leader at Orange with a total of 97. “It’s a great feeling to have that record,” said Headlee. “The most important people to thank are my line mates. I gave them the puck but for them to have the ability to finish the goals is a real accomplishment.
Orange competed in the third round of state tournament play against Oxford Talawanda on Feb. 27. To start off the afternoon game, P. Muth scored to put the Pioneers on the board first off of a breakaway pass. With lots of momentum, the Braves scored soonly after in a turnover. Shortly after in the first, categorizing the match as a “back and forth game,” C. Headlee would score for the Pioneers followed by another Braves goal. During a Pioneer power play, C. Headlee scored again to bring the ‘Neers up 3-2 after the first. During the second period, the boys would score a single goal from E. Muth as Talawanda scores three to get back in the lead. In the third and final period trailing by one, goalie Diehr makes key saves that keep the ‘Neers in the game. After a quiet period in regards to goal scoring, Orange pulls their goalie in hopes of a one man advantage goal to tie up the game. Unfortunately, Talawanda will get an empty net goal with less than 30 seconds in the game. With the 4-6 loss against Talawanda, the Pioneers season would come to and.
The 2020-2021 season for the Hockey ‘Neers was a great one, signaling the end of an era for the seniors who made such a big contribution during their time on the ice. Despite COVID and coaching changes, the boys persevered and succeeded each season. “I enjoyed my time alongside my teammates, and wish it didn’t need to come to an end,” said Senior Ethan Muth. “This team has a lot of good things ahead of them.”
By: Abby Struntz