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February 5, 2014

Top line propelling Avondale hockey team to top of standings

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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In 19 games this season, Emmett Wagner has 42 goals and 23 assists. He is the top scorer on Avondale’s top offensive line.

TROY — Skill, power and finesse, and on a pace bordering on insanity.

Really, there’s no other way to describe what the top line has done for the Avondale hockey team.

“That’s the line that drives us,” first-year coach Scott Dockett said last week about his core of production, seniors Emmett Wagner, Nick Poplars and Patrick Riedy. “Our secondary lines have done a nice job coming around as the season has gone on, but that is the line that usually gets us going.”

And it hardly backs down.

Wagner leads the trio, having scored 42 goals and 23 assists in just 19 games.

His 65 points is a team best and good for a 3.42 points-per-game average.

“Emmett is the kind of kid where, if he gets the puck around the net, it’s going in,” Dockett said.

Not far behind Wagner is Poplars, who has 24 goals and 32 assists in 19 games.

“Nick came out of travel hockey to play with us this year, and he’s done such a great job bolstering that top line,” Dockett said.

Riedy, the third part of the equation, has 13 goals and 17 helpers.

“They cycle the puck, and they’re so skilled offensively,” Dockett said. “When that line’s on, we’re a very dangerous team.”

“It’s actually kind of surprising,” Wagner said of the line’s production. “It’s almost like we don’t know what or how it happens. We just kind of work well together.”

“Communication — it’s huge,” Poplars said.

The results go well beyond individual stats, though.

A year ago, Avondale struggled to find traction, finishing the winter with an 8-13-3 record.

This season started so-so, as the Yellow Jackets went 2-2 in their first four games.

But since then, with the top line firing, they haven’t looked back.

Entering a Feb. 5 game against Troy High, Avondale was 13-5-1 overall, riding a 5-0-1 streak in the past six games and atop the Oakland Activities Association White Division at 6-3-0.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, coming into the year,” Dockett said. “We started with a good group of guys that wanted to work hard at implementing the system to see what happen. They jelled right away, and we’ve gotten some good goaltending.”

Not to mention the scoring.

“I think we’ve kind of set things up, and the other guys have followed our lead,” Poplars said.

Just how far the dynamic offense can take Avondale is yet to be seen.

The guys spoke about winning the White, calling it the main goal of the season.

When the 2014 playoffs begin, the Yellow Jackets will take on Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, with the winner granted the opportunity to face a Cranbrook team that is 18-1-0 and ranked No. 1 in Division 3.

“We’ve seen plenty of them,” Wagner joked. “We’d love to beat them.”

Dockett knows defense and goaltending usually wins out, come playoff time, but with this group, with this skill set, he also sees no reason the torrid scoring can’t continue.

“Why not?” he said. “We have all the ingredients to keep scoring like we have, and have some (postseason) success.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.