Greenmen hockey team 'going with the flow'

Jim Smith
Correspondent
Aurora coach John Sheridan (center) shouts instructions during a game last season against Kent Roosevelt.

While preparing for the 2020-21 regular season play in the White South Division of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League (GCHSHL), Aurora Greenmen coach John Sheridan has been reminding his team that patience and flexibility with be necessary traits for success.

Sheridan, entering his 18th year at Aurora, succinctly states, “It’s going to be a crazy season,” due to the multitude of challenges the pandemic continues to offer.

After playing a single preseason contest and one regular season contest, Aurora is currently completing a two-week pause to their season.

“I think there will be a lot of games being played in January and February [because of anticipated postponement of games]," said Sheridan.

“I told the kids this will be a challenging year. We do not even have a locker room at The Pond [the home ice arena for the Greenmen]. I told the kids that we just need to go with the flow. The big word is patience. We are a little looser,” said Sheridan. “We will play the game with structure and discipline, but at the end of the day, just go have fun.”

Going with the flow includes an adjustment to the GCHSHL regular season and post-season Baron Cup tournament. As a result of current and anticipated changes to GCHSHL teams’ schedules, no standing or statistics will be recorded this regular season and all teams will qualify for Baron Cup play rather than a select number of teams.

Aurora goaltender Nolan Sullivan makes a stop against Parma in a game last season.

Sheridan describes this season’s team as being “not real deep” but having a “core of pretty-good players” and having 18 rostered players, shy of the 24 players on last season’s team.

“We really lost defensive players and a key forward from last year,” said Sheridan.

“I think we will be OK. They are a hard-working bunch. They are a good group of young guys, are coachable and have fun.”

The Greenmen have already exhibited commitment and effort attending virtual workouts during the recent pause.

“They are doing Zoom workouts during the break with our strength and conditioning guy from Aurora,” Sheridan said. “I jumped on a couple of the calls and they are all there. They will come back [from the pause] and be in shape.”

Senior forward and captain Cam Mullin, last year’s leading scorer, returns along with classmates and returning players David Brandes, Drew Pfiffner and goaltender Nolan Sullivan.

Sheridan described Mullin as being “good for a goal a game.”

“Sullivan probably kept us in 21 of the 25 games we played last year. He has improved quite a bit the last couple of years. He keeps us in games,” Sheridan said.

Additionally, senior Ricky Reynolds will be playing his first season of hockey.

Forwards Nathan Funk, Mike Mancine, and defenseman Max Trem return for their junior seasons.

Cam Mullin takes a shot against CVCA in a game last season.

While Funk and Mancine have been regular players for several seasons, Trem was out last year and, according to Sheridan, “the practices, single scrimmage game and season-opening game are the most he has probably played and he is coming along.”

Six sophomores will skate for the Greenmen this season. Forwards Alex Harrell, Charlie Hesse, Zane Martin, Conor McMahon, Christian Viant and defenseman William Genovese are prepping for their second season.

“Genovese is a good player that can play up and back,” said Sheridan.

Sheridan offered that Harrell and Viant have improved over the offseason and is hoping they can get increased ice time this season.

Carter Bates, Henry Hesse, Will Pfiffner, and Michael Phillips are freshmen joining the Aurora club this season.

“Will Pfiffner and Michael Phillips can play,” Sheridan said. Both forwards played in the season-opening 2-1 overtime loss to Orange.

Sheridan noted that forwards Funk, Mancine, Martin, McMahon, Mullin and Will Pfiffner are pretty even and will offer two fairly balanced lines.

In summarizing his team for the season, Sheridan believes they will be competitive in the White South Division, declaring, “We will compete pretty well. We have a pretty decent goalie, a couple of good defensemen and we have a handful of experienced, good forwards. We just do not have a lot of depth. We will be competitive and, if we stay healthy, we should be OK.”

As Sheridan approaches the two-decade mark of coaching the Greenmen, he will be assisted by Joe Lawrie and Lee Pfiffner.

“Joe Lawrie is more like a ‘co-coach’ and I gave them both more decision making than I would have five years ago,” said Sheridan.

Allowing more decision making by his assistants may suggest that even an 18-year coaching veteran is learning to be flexible and to “go with the flow” in this crazy season.

Drew Piffner, left, and Cam Mullin, right, go for the puck against CVCA during a game last season.