On its own
BOARDMAN — There are more than 50 high schools in the Mahoning Valley that sponsor athletics. Out of those 50, only one offers hockey to its students, with that school being Canfield.
The Cardinals (15-3-3, 8-1-1) are on pace to have their best season as a program. According to Canfield coach Steve Covelli, the Canfield hockey program has been around for around 20 years, and with one more win, the 2020-21 Cardinals will tie a program-high.
Canfield already has topped the program-high in total goals this season. The 7-3 win over Wooster put the Cardinals’ goal total up to 120 on the season, topping the previous record of 114.
Senior forward Brian Woak is a large part of the team’s success as he leads them with 46 goals. With how hard the team has worked this season, the 5-foot-10 center is thrilled that the Cardinals are starting to turn some heads in the community.
“I think it’s huge,” Woak said. “Especially for us because we don’t get that much recognition. It’s a big thing for us. We’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s a great feeling. It’s an amazing feeling. We’ve worked hard and I think we deserve it all.”
As there’s no local rivalries, with the closest team geographically on Canfield’s schedule this season being Kent Roosevelt, it takes an extra level of dedication to be a member of the team.
With hockey not being the most accessible sport in the Mahoning Valley, the process has affected bringing players into the fold.
“There’s no feeder program, there’s no JV, there’s no middle school, so it’s ninth grade to 12th grade, how fast can you build it,” Covelli said. “It’s continual work. We’ve been fortunate enough to have some good seniors each year that are good role models, and it’s really worked out well, especially for the coaching staff to have players like Brian Woak and Tyler Christie. I mean, they’re constantly teaching even though they’re elite players. They work really well with the young kids.”
For Woak, a small interaction with former Youngstown SteelHounds coach Kevin Kaminski at his first-ever hockey game kickstarted what has become a lifelong love affair for the senior.
“How it all started was at a SteelHounds game, and he and the head coach knocked on the glass with a big (Calder) Cup ring,” Woak said. “I want that ring. That’s what got me here.”
Canfield is on pace to top the current goals-per-game mark (4.95), scoring 5.7 goals-per-game this season and have only given up 50 goals so far — with the program-low being 78.
Woak himself is close to a program record as well. With 46 goals and 28 assists, tallying 74 points, the senior center is only five points away from the school record of 79 and is approaching the single-season goal record of 52 set by Riley Emery back in 2010-11.
He isn’t the only player with a chance to set a new program-high.
Senior Eli Dredge is also on pace for breaking the assist record, with 28 assists on the season and a personal-best 23 goals. Goaltender Cory Knarr has 14 wins this season, two shutouts, and is quickly approaching the school record of 16 wins.
For Woak however, his hopes and expectations are higher than some broken records.
“I think we’re gonna make it to state,” Woak said. “I think we can win and bring home a couple trophies.”
The Cardinals hit the ice Tuesday against Westlake in the second round of the Baron Cup, a tournament put on by Canfield’s league, the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League. Canfield is the second seed in the tournament and is looking to bring home its first piece of hardware.