WARREN, Mich. — It was pretty apparent early on 2019-20 might be a challenge for De La Salle Collegiate on the ice.
Looking down the schedule, there were very few reprieves — especially in league play — for the Pilots. And the results proved just that, as the team finished 4-21 overall. But that did not mean the team just rolled over and gave up.
"That's what really impressed me," said head coach Nick Badder, who announced he was stepping down at the end of the season. "They did handle it like men. They took their lumps and moved on, came to the rink the next day, and kept going at it. That's a very, very hard thing to do. I was very proud of the guys for that."
Just a few short years ago, the Pilots were celebrating a state championship. But the team suffered a good number of losses last offseason, either due to graduation or players choosing not to return to the program. The lack of experience showed this season, as a number of players had to step into unfamiliar roles.
Seniors Matthew Rodgers (captain) and Easton Knott and Jacob Frederick (assistant captains) provided great leadership to the team. All three will be big losses, as will fellow seniors Larry Lavigne, Austin Cooley, Jack Kosloski, Nicholas Twombley, and Thomas Bechtell.
Twombley led the Pilots in scoring this season, posting a team-best nine goals and 15 points. He earned All-Catholic honors. His two goals (and assist) helped lead his team to a 5-4 win over Hancock. He also had two goals against Grosse Pointe North to start the new year.
"He worked his butt off the whole year," Badder said. "He didn't really have many off games. He was our setup guy. He never stopped passing the puck. That's just his style and he knows the type of player he is."
Twombley anchored a line that included a pair of promising sophomores, Robert Vanderdonck and Jack Rivera. They combined for 12 goals and 21 points in their first year on varsity.
"They had great speed and vision and they worked very hard - tough to do as sophomores," Badder said. "You're playing these top five teams and their top lines, players who are ready to go play juniors. They did a good job. They have bright futures ahead of them."
They aren't alone. According to Badder, several other Pilots have a chance to be difference-makers next year for head coach Sean Clark, who is returning to lead the program.
Junior Gavin Milne was second on the team in scoring (12 points). Avery Petri, another junior, also reached double digits in points. Junior Teagan Fuqua, sophomore Matthew Rimas, and freshman Johnathan Miller also drew rave reviews from Badder. And junior Connor Pullen and sophomore Andrew Parmentier split time in goal, each gaining valuable experience in net.
"Really. I just felt like we were a year away," said Badder, who will be coaching for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies next year. "I think a lot of these guys will have a lot more success next year. Seeing the speed and skill of these top teams will make things easier for the younger guys next year."