There's no place Grant Rodgers would rather be than in goal for the DeSales High School hockey team, even if his pads have taken a lot of punishment.
Entering play Jan. 5, the junior goaltender had faced more than 60 shots in three games this season -- an average of 1.33 per minute -- and stopped the majority of them, despite the Stallions being 2-11 overall and 1-8 in the Capital Hockey Conference after a 5-0 loss to Watterson on Jan. 5 and an 11-0 loss to Dublin Coffman on Jan. 6.
Rodgers stopped 67 of 72 shots in a 5-0 loss to St. Charles on Dec. 10 after making 55 saves in a 7-1 loss to Upper Arlington on Dec. 2 and 44 in a 3-2 win over Olentangy on Dec. 8.
"I've been facing shots ever since I've played hockey," Rodgers said. "I like facing 60 shots a game. That's a lot of fun for me. There are no dull moments in the game. If anything, it makes me more comfortable the more shots I see.
"I get into my groove and make plays I need to make and give my team the best chance to win. When your shot count is so much higher than the other team and you can get a win, it feels great."
Rodgers, who said he has "had a pair of skates on my feet since I was 2 years old," has been a welcome addition to the Stallions in their first season under coach Darcy Cahill. He played four seasons with the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets and spent last season with the Elite Hockey Program at Cheshire Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut, before opting to come back to central Ohio.
"I wanted to play hockey and lacrosse at DeSales. I have so many friends here," Rodgers said. "And being 10 hours from home can be hard sometimes."
Rodgers' father, Don, played goalie growing up near Athens and now is an assistant coach for the Stallions. Older brothers Morgan, Nate and Parker played for the Westerville Warcats club team as students at Westerville Central, although Parker played his senior season at DeSales last year.
Morgan and Parker were goalies, and Nate was a defenseman.
Grant started as a forward but switched to goalie when he began playing for the AA Columbus Capitals at age 8.
"I never pushed (goaltending on them). It's not for everybody. You're either the hero or the scapegoat. It's a state of mind as much as anything," Don Rodgers said. "Mentally, Grant is extremely tough. He has played with some of the best kids in the country. He's freakishly competitive and extremely athletic."
Grant Rodgers made 29 saves in his Stallions debut, a 4-0 loss to Thomas Worthington on Nov. 18. Because of a groin tweak, he played three games at forward during the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 24-26 but has been back in net ever since.
Rodgers' backup is Alex McClary, who split time in goal with Parker Rodgers last season.
"It's fun to have the opportunity to score a goal here and there, switch roles up. That's my favorite part about sports," Rodgers said. "Being a goalie and going to forward, you know where to place the puck. You have a different vision of the ice. When you're a forward, you see what's in front of you. When you're a goalie, you see everything around you."
Rodgers also plays lacrosse and said he would be open to playing either sport in college.
"Grant is one of the most valuable players on the team," forward Chris Yarger said. "When a player knows he can trust his goalie, that's when they start getting close. If the other team gets a breakaway, I know Grant will do his job and stop that puck."
Boys basketball team still finding groove
The boys basketball team's schedule resumed in earnest Jan. 5 when it played Ready, and that was none too soon for coach Pat Murphy.
DeSales played just five games in December. Part of that was because a scheduled Dec. 9 game against Dresden Tri-Valley was moved to Feb. 17 thanks to the Scotties football team's run to the Division III state final, and then bad weather postponed a Dec. 30 game against Zanesville Rosecrans. Nonetheless, Murphy was trying to figure some things out later than he would have liked.
"We're still figuring out who we are. It's evolving and starting to form," said Murphy, whose team lost to Ready 74-56 to fall to 0-3 in the CCL and dropped to 3-4 overall with a 61-48 loss to Walnut Ridge on Jan. 6. "Most of the teams we're seeing have played considerably more (games) than us. We've finally solidified our rotation recently."
DeSales' game against Ready was its first since a 59-55 overtime loss to Hartley on Dec. 22. Kayin Derden scored a career-high 32 points that night, increasing his team-leading average to 18 points per game before Jan. 5, ahead of Kobe Righter (10.8), Desmond Watson (8.6) and Anthony Sciarroni (8.1).
Murphy lauded his team's resilience, pointing to a 71-59 win over Licking Heights on Dec. 16 that came less than 24 hours after a 45-38 loss to Watterson in its CCL opener in which the Stallions committed 21 turnovers.
"We talk about 'next' all the time," Murphy said. "We were up 25 (at Licking Heights) with about three minutes left before I emptied the bench. We walked the walk. We played hard and got better. For us, it was as good as we could play."
DeSales and Rosecrans had not decided on a makeup date as of late last week, although a possibility is Jan. 19 given that neither team plays that night. The Stallions already have nine games scheduled this month.
Despite a winless start in the league, Murphy said he thinks his team is still in championship contention.
"It's gonna be a dogfight every game," Murphy said. "We still have to get through the first round of the league. It's a weird feeling because we haven't had that many games."
Girls basketball team loses league opener
The girls basketball team will seek its first CCL win of the season when it visits Ready on Thursday, Jan. 11.
Emma Burns was held to 10 points, more than eight below her season average, in the Stallions' 53-33 loss at Watterson to open league play Jan. 4. Gabby Elliott added seven points as the game was tied at 16 after the first quarter before the Eagles pulled away with a 17-3 third-quarter advantage.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak in which DeSales won by an average of 30.5 points. The Stallions defeated Cincinnati Colerain 51-12 in the third-place game of the Roosters Stallion Holiday Classic on Dec. 28 and beat Walnut Ridge 74-52 on Dec. 30.
DeSales fell to 4-7 overall with a 71-45 loss to Gahanna on Jan. 6.
Burns was averaging 17.4 points through 10 games, ahead of Elliott (10.3) and Erin Burns (6.3).
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 12 -- At St. Charles
Jan. 13 -- Home vs. Beechcroft
Jan. 16 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Jan. 11 -- At Ready
Jan. 13 -- Home vs. Licking Heights
*Jan. 11 -- Walnut Ridge at Eastland Lanes
*Jan. 12 -- Mifflin at HP Lanes
Jan. 13 -- Thornville Sheridan and Washington Court House Miami Trace at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading
Jan. 12 -- Strongsville in Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament at OBM Arena in Strongsville
Jan. 13 -- Hudson in Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament
Jan. 14 -- Southwest Michigan Blades in Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament
Jan. 15 -- TBD in Walter F. Ehrnfelt Tournament
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 13 -- Delaware Invitational at Ohio Wesleyan and Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium
Jan. 13-14 -- Catholic Invitational Tournament at Cleveland St. Ignatius