Playing fast, high-powered offensive hockey, the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders have passed the halfway point for their season with plenty of momentum.
At 11-8, the Rough Riders posted two solid tournament outings to close out the 2012 portion of their schedule. Hosting their own Rough Rider Holiday Tournament, they captured the tournament title with a 4-2 win against Mayfield in the championship game.
A 2-2 outing in the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Holiday Tournament with a win against Normandy in their final game raised Roosvelt's record to 11-8 and there is no question which facet of the game is driving coach Ben Barlow's squad at this point in the season.
Averaging more than four goals a game, the Rough Riders rely on the potent offensive trio of Kyle Manning, Scott Rainey and Gabe Smith to lead the way. Manning, a senior forward and team captain, has tallied 23 goals and 18 assists through 19 games, giving him 41 points and an average of more than two points per game. Barlow praised Manning for doing a solid job in his captain's role as well and providing leadership for both the first line that he plays on, and for the team as a whole.
Smith, a sophomore who has shown promise and could become the team's primary weapon after Manning graduates, has 25 points of his own (18 goals, seven assists). Rainey's role, in addition to scoring and setting up the offense, is to lead the second line that takes the ice when Manning's group rests. His 12 goals and eight assists attest to the job he has done in that capacity.
"Scott does a really nice job of centering that second line," Barlow said.
In addition to their winning record, the Rough Riders are also 3-1 in the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League White East Division. The goal of winning their division and the league's postseason tournament remain realistic possibilities. It will likely be their offensive attack that leads them if they get where they want to be.
"Going into season, we took a very unorthodox approach," Barlow added. "We look to be very aggressive in our offensive zone and to run power play even when we're playing 5-on-5. We're trying to get 40 shots per game, hit 5 or 6 goals per game, so our break outs tend to be aggressive and we really try to stretch the zone."
Junior Nate Grootegoed is the team’s starting goalie, and Mitch Fisher and Jake Schmauch are the anchors the back end of the defense that faces additional pressure because of the holes sometimes left by the team's aggressive approach on the offensive end of the ice.
With two solid lines and 10 players to rotate on and off the ice, the Rough Riders use their depth to play the style of hockey that Barlow asks of them. In his 11th year, he is attempting to push the team past the third round of the sectional tournament, the point Roosevelt reached last season before losing to Walsh Jesuit. Wins against Chagrin Falls and Notre Dame Cathedral Latin set up the chance to knock off one of Northeast Ohio's perennial powers, but the Rough Riders fell short.
Their goals this season include pushing past that same point in the tournament and seeing how far they can go.
"Our expectations are to win the league, to win the White Division Baron Cup and to be sectional champ," Barlow added. "Everything we do has the eye on those ultimate endings."
There is also an international flavor to the roster as junior Okko Boger hails from Finland and has found a home in the rotation for Barlow, adding 10 goals and 13 assists to the mix and showing an ability to adjust to both a new culture and a new team and not miss a beat on the ice.
Staying healthy and winning upcoming league games against Kenston at home and Orange on the road will go a long way toward determining whether or not the Rough Riders reach their goals for the year.
"The past couple of years, we have been really healthy for duration of the season, but right now we're battling some injuries," Barlow said. "Every year and every team has its own distinct personality and even though we graduated a lot great kids, new kids have stepped up to take their place."