Simplification was the DeSales High School hockey team's theme this past summer.
For the first time in his six-year tenure, coach Bob Heine and his staff devised skill-set checklists for each player. Heine said the idea was to give players clear indications of their progress and set goals for this season.
The role for senior forward Tyler Klutch remained simple, though increasingly important.
"He has the most points in DeSales history overall," Heine said. "We needed him to perform at at least that level and he's doing that."
Citing more trust in his instincts, Klutch entered a Dec. 20 game against St. Charles with 23 goals in 12 games, including 11 in four games during the Cleveland Benedictine Christmas Tournament held Dec. 13-15.
The Stallions were 10-2 overall and 2-0 in the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division before facing St. Charles.
"I started shooting the puck more and not being too fancy," Klutch said. "It's all about smarter decision-making. Playing four years of varsity hockey, you gain more perspective on how to score and what's easier to do, how the puck goes into the net."
With just more than half of his senior season remaining, Klutch has cemented his place in the DeSales history book.
He had 87 career goals entering the game against St. Charles to rank second all-time, behind 2013 graduate Joe Gray (107), and he scored 24 goals as a sophomore, tying for third all-time in program history for most goals in a season. Only Gray, who scored 54 in 2011-12 and 42 last season, has done better.
Klutch owns the program record for assists in a season with 37, which he set in 2011-12, and he entered the season first on the Stallions' all-time assists list with 87.
Klutch had 152 career points entering the season, four more than Gray (148) had from 2010-13, and his 61 points in 2011-12 rank third all-time in the program behind Gray's 69 points two in 2011-12 and 62 last year.
Klutch has been on the Stallions' first line with senior Danny Helin and sophomore Sam Gray. Freshman Dimitri Bergados replaced Gray during the Benedictine tournament when Gray sustained a wrist injury.
"It's actually funny, but this year we're trying to be the opposite of that," Helin said. "We mostly thought with Joe leaving, it was an opportunity for the rest of us to get the points in. It just so happened that Klutch has had a bunch of goals. But what we're most worried about this year is making passes."
"(Klutch) plays his best when he's working hard and hustling with the puck. That's what he's been doing this year. He's not overthinking when he shoots. He's not trying to get breakaways all the time. He's just overall having great games, and that ties into the rest of us. It sets up the rest of us to work hard, too, and get goals like he does."
DeSales had outscored its opponents 82-23 through 12 games, including 36-1 in four games in the Benedictine tournament. Eight of the goals allowed were against Olentangy Orange in an 8-2 loss on Dec. 8.
"We had to figure out how to make up for Joe's 42 goals," Heine said. "We needed to come up with some more offense, but also needed to be more responsible defensively. We figured if we cut down our goals against, that was going to make a difference. We didn't feel we were going to go in and say across the board, we'll make up 42 goals. We had to play better in the defensive zone and, for the most part, with the exception of the Orange game, we've done that."
Boys basketball team set for holiday trip
Boys basketball coach Joe Bills largely was pleased with his team's play through six games, but he has a checklist he wants the Stallions to follow as CCL play heats up in January.
"We have to cut down on turnovers and sending other teams to the free-throw line. We have to be wise on defense," said Bills, whose team was 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the CCL before playing Hartley on Dec. 20. "Playing defense without fouling can be a challenge, especially when you have a younger team. In practice, we go hard and tend to let fouls go. It'll take time to play better defense and not commit as many fouls, but I'd much rather have a team that's too physical than the other way around."
Through six games, Justin Thompson averaged a team-high 9.8 points, followed by Austin Herbst (8.2), Shawn Snyder (7.5) and Eric Fitz (7.2).
Freshman Ryan Peaks started each of DeSales' first six games at point guard, flanked by Josh DeLozier and Thompson at shooting guard, Fitz at forward and either Herbst or Caden Sanchez at center.
DeSales travels to New Philadelphia for the Tuscarawas Central Catholic tournament on Friday, Dec. 27, and Saturday, Dec. 28. The Stallions will play Middletown Fenwick on the first day and Dayton Carroll on the second day.
Then, three of the Stallions' next four games are in the CCL, beginning Jan. 3 against Ready.
"With this being my first year and having so many young guys, I want to be able to look at us and make sure we are getting better every day," Bills said. "I can honestly say we've done that every single day we've been together. Of course, we still have a long way to go."
Bowling teams remain unbeaten
The boys and girls bowling teams arrived at their three-week holiday break undefeated on the season.
The boys are 3-0 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division, having defeated Watterson 1,891-1,557 on Dec. 12.
Tony LaTorre led the Stallions with a 338 series, followed by Anthony Hayes (333), Patrick Nie (323) and Tyler LaTorre (314).
Hayes bowled the team's best series of the season, a 375 in a 2,080-1,822 win over St. Charles on Dec. 4.
On Dec. 17, Amber Strohacker rolled a 320 series to lead the girls team past Watterson 1,446-1,412. Haley Strohacker had a 235 series and Cynthia Groves had a 233 for the Stallions, who improved to 2-0 overall and in the COHSBC-Central.
Amber Strohacker owns the team's best game of the season, rolling a 181 in a 1,739-1,147 win over Columbus International on Dec. 10.
Both teams resume their seasons Jan. 7 against league-foe Linden-McKiney at HP Lanes.