No Frederick County ice hockey team is expected to be as dangerous as Oakdale, an experienced group loaded with upperclassmen.
Oakdale has several offensive options returning, led by Ryley Harper, who had 39 points with 19 goals last season. Also returning is Zach Pard (36 points, 26 goals) and Ian Soifer (21 points, 11 goals).
“This year’s powerhouse is going to be Oakdale, no doubt about it,” said Walkersville coach Sean Donegan, who expects the Bears to compete for the state championship. “We’ll be right there with them. We’ll have a great season, but getting through Oakdale is going to be tough.”
Walkersville, which lost in the state semifinals last year, is loaded with seniors, eight total, but also have five freshman.
Donegan said defenseman Zach McElroy and forwards Nathan Miller (8 goals and 24 points last year), Braden Smith (15, 16) and Bryan Donegan (5 assists) will be his top players.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” Sean Donegan said. “We got some new kids this year but lost some good ones. I think we’ll do fine.”
Middletown is expected to be the third team at the top of the league. Florian Cotera is its leading returning scorer after scoring 26 goals with 37 points last year. Also back is Shawn Lane (9 goals, 16 points), Dylan Contento (6, 8) and Denzil Cotera (3, 7).
Urbana hopes to be the fourth team in the Monocacy Valley Hockey League playoffs.
After finishing last year’s regular season at 10-5-2, Urbana coach Toby Heusser said this will be a transition year. There are only 13 players on his roster with just one senior, Mike Shearer.
“We’re very young, inexperienced and very thin,” Heusser said.
Heusser still wants to win this year, with Shearer being his motivation. Shearer was on the Urbana team that lost in the state finals in 2011 and wants the senior to go out on a high note.
“Mike is a leader as far as talent,” Heusser said. “He’s probably one of the better players in the county. He’s got a lot of talent.”
Heusser, who also has Oakdale pegged as the team to beat, thinks his team has a chance to win the final playoff spot. From there, it’s anyone’s title to win.
“That’s our goal, to at least make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s what I tell my guys. Once you get there you don’t know what will happen.”