Since the OPRF Hockey Club hired Dave Dyson in 2013 to serve as the organization’s hockey director and varsity head coach, the Huskies have shown steady improvement on the ice.

This year’s team is the best one he’s coached. OPRF is 25-8-1, ranked 10th in the state by and one of the top teams in the Illinois West High School Hockey League.

“We’re pleased as punch with everything that’s gone on this season,” Dyson said. “The team is playing well across the board. The young guys have really stepped up and made contributions. Our leaders, particularly our seniors, have set the tone. There are a few things we’re working on as we head into the home stretch and state tournament, but we really like our team.”

The Huskies have a wealth of talent throughout the lineup. Seniors Max Goldstein (29 goals, 29 assists) and Liam Burns (19 goals, 34 assists) along with sophomore Ricky Jones (38 goals) are elite scorers. Patrick Scmidt and Owen Metric are other capable scorers.

“We have three of the top five goal scorers in our league,” Dyson said. “When we put them together, they are borderline unstoppable. If we split them apart, teams have to decide which guy they’ll try to slow down.

“We have a heckuva lot more firepower than we have had in the past. This team is capable of scoring quickly in bunches.”

As a four-year varsity player, Burns leads the way.

“In my opinion, Liam Burns is one of the best players in the state of Illinois,” Dyson said. “He’s exceptionally gifted.”

Goldstein decided to join the team this season as a first-year varsity player, while Jones has made a major impact the past two seasons.

“Max is an absolute force on the ice,” Dyson said. “He’s a dominating player and awesome character guy. Ricky is a scoring machine. He’s just a natural goal scorer.”

Led by four-year varsity player Spencer Smith, Avery Anderson and PJ Gonzalez, OPRF has excelled defensively as well.

“I think the team is so successful because right from the start of the season we all really gelled together,” Smith said. “Not being biased, but I think we have a phenomenal group of seniors that really care about the game and their teammates. We have only had two expectations this whole season, and those are to win the league championship along with a state championship.”

Smith, Gonzalez and Metric also have accounted for 17 points apiece this season.

“Spencer and Avery are top players who anchor our defense,” Dyson said. “PJ is a hard-nosed hockey player. He’s made contributions offensively as well. PJ provides an emotional spark to the team.”

Other contributors this season include: Sam Pecenka, Harrison Proctor, Henry Burkett, Will Belke, Sam Guillot, Brett Johnson and Grey Burton, among others. 

Heading into the season, Dyson felt goaltending could be a concern. Fortunately, it’s been a non-issue.

“We lost an All-State goaltender in Ben Ostler to graduation,” Dyson said. “The goaltending tandem of Will DeCaro (329 saves) and Abraham Berlin (173 saves) has been magnificent.”

Burns credits much of the Huskies’ success to the coaching staff

“As a freshman coming into the program, our team went about .500. Last year we went 33-18, and we are continuing to build off of that this year,” Burns said. “This speaks a lot to our coaching staff. They have developed an incredible team with strong systems. Our coaches have pushed us to get better and better each year.”

With the ultimate goal of winning a state championship, OPRF has already earned several notable wins this season, including a 3-2 victory over Fenwick in front of a capacity crowd at Ridgeland Common on Sept. 9.

“Playing Fenwick was a blast and definitely the highlight of my high school experience so far,” Burns said. “It was a huge win for us early in the year and definitely gave us a lot of confidence.”

Smith added, “Honestly, the feeling of beating Fenwick is inexplicable. It set our season off on the right foot. The environment was unbelievable, I was not expecting to have the stands completely full.”

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...

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