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Royal Oak hockey has sights set on OAA White title

By: Alex Tekip | Royal Oak Review | Published November 30, 2015


ROYAL OAK — For the last four seasons, Royal Oak High hockey has been climbing the ranks in the Oakland Activities Association White Division under coach Craig Ward.

This season, Ward believes the Ravens have potential to reach the summit: the program’s first league title.

“Royal Oak’s never won (the OAA White) in their history of hockey, and our goal is to change that this year, “ Ward said. “Can we do it? Yeah. Shall we? 

“First year I was here, we were fifth, second year we were here we were third, and last year we were second. There’s definitely room to be up top.”

At press time, Royal Oak  is 2-0-1 overall following a 13-4 win over Royal Oak Shrine Unified on Nov. 25. Seven different players scored a goal in the victory. Senior Wade Herbert and junior Brendan Murphy each had a hat trick in the contest. Senior Clay Kosnik, who serves as a captain with Herbert; junior Henry Gabriel; and senior Quinn Fall, had four assists and a goal.

After the win, Kosnik said the high-scoring offensive effort spoke to the potential of his team.

“It’s a good confidence booster for the rest of the season,” said Kosnik.

Kosnik and Fall are both four-year players for Royal Oak. Ward said he plans to look to Kosnik, Fall and most of his returning lineup to provide leadership, but is excited about what the newcomers have to offer.

“We’ve added some players that, I think, (are) near to that core,” Ward said.

Among the emerging players are sophomore defenseman Owen Szarafinski and junior Grant Ybarra, who Ward said is a “big defenseman that plays a critical role in our development and into our success.”

Also playing a key role in Royal Oak’s development and success is the coaching staff, who have instructed and played at a variety of levels, including high school, Triple-A and junior hockey.

“We have a very, very big résumé when it comes to our coaching staff,” Ward said. “We know how to get these kids moving. We play 25 games throughout the season, I think, in 19 weeks. The season goes by fast. The thing is, you have to play every game like it’s a league game, like it’s a championship game.”

Royal Oak is slated to play either Grosse Pointe South or archrival Berkley in this season’s preregional state tournament game. The Ravens were eliminated by Berkley in preregionals last season.

“It’s not the easiest road to get to a point that you want to be, and that’s the state title,” said Ward. “We change things, move things. We make things exciting for the boys.”

Ward said early on that his team is showing passion, heart and ability — traits that make the recipe for a successful season.

“I think this group of kids that we have has the mentality to compete every night and get excited to compete every night,” Ward said.

Royal Oak takes on St. Clair Shores Unified on Dec. 2 at Lindell Ice Arena in Royal Oak.