Hockey: Hilliard Wildcats looking to continue run of success

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Senior forward James Schwinne III is among the top returnees for Hilliard and first-year coach Jake Trask. The Wildcats are coming off a season in which they earned their 12th consecutive state tournament berth and won the Blue Jackets Cup.

First-year Hilliard club hockey coach Jake Trask took over the program knowing he didn't have to build it from scratch.

As the successor to Wade Bartley, who stepped down after nine seasons, Trask's goal for this winter is continuing the Wildcats' high standards.

Bartley guided Hilliard to its 12th consecutive Buckeye Cup state tournament berth a season ago along with winning the Blue Jackets Cup, which is the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League tournament. The Wildcats finished 25-17-4 overall and 12-4-2 in the OSHL.

“For me coming in, I knew the expectation of this program,” Trask said. “I know from last year there’s a few guys that we’ve lost from graduating or moving on in hockey. The young guys that we have brought into the program are just going to continue to get better and better. We have a strong leadership group. It’s early in the year and guys are still learning things.”

Trask, a native of British Columbia, played major junior hockey in the Western Hockey League for the Kamloops Blazers and Saskatoon Blades for five seasons. He had 76 goals and 85 assists. 

Following his junior career, he spent eight seasons playing in the East Coast Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League.

After finishing his professional career in the 2018-19 season, Trask served as an assistant coach at Dublin Coffman last season.

“This is my second year not playing,” said Trask, who is 29. “I played professionally for eight years. I had the idea of wanting to coach. ... I wanted to be part of this program and work with kids that are a little bit younger and are trying to move on in hockey.”

Hilliard, which was 8-5-1 through 14 games, was scheduled to play Dayton on Saturday, Dec. 5, at OhioHealth Ice Haus and Medina on Sunday, Dec. 6, at Chiller North.

James Schwinne III, a senior forward from Central Crossing, led the team in scoring with 11 goals and seven assists.

“With everything that is going on right now, knowing that any game could be my last, I just have to try my best to come out here and give it my all and never look back on anything I’ve done and know that I’ve given it my best every single night,” he said.

Another key returnee is goalie Mason Sines, a sophomore at Fairbanks.

Also back is center Jaxson Gillespie, a senior at Darby.

“I really like coach Trask,” Gillespie said. “He talks to the kids. He’s starting to fit in now. He’s not a stranger anymore; he’s our coach. All the other coaches like him.”

Other returnees are seniors Sammy Delio (forward, Davidson), A.J. Lightfoot (forward, Darby) and Jesse Stevens (center, Grove City), junior Hayden Clingman (defenseman, Bradley) and sophomore Tim Elmer II (defenseman, Davidson).

Other players are seniors Cameron DeForest (forward, Bradley) and Jared Pallay (forward, Bradley) and juniors Owen Ambrozy (forward, Davidson), Alex Kerr (forward, Jonathan Alder), Ben Morgan (center, Davidson), Will Morgan (forward, Davidson), A.J. Sawicki (defenseman, Darby), Rob Slivon (center, Davidson) and Dmitri Williams (defenseman, Metro Early College).

Also looking to contribute are sophomores Christian Sohner (defenseman, Davidson), Luke Starr (defenseman, Davidson) and Gavin Williams (goalie, Bradley) and freshmen Dominic DelBoccio (forward, Bradley) and James Tarantine (defenseman, Davidson).

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Coach: Jake Trask, first season

Top players: Jaxson Gillespie, A.J. Lightfoot, James Schwinne III and Mason Sines

Key losses: Kaeden Boyd, Marcus Cornett II, Will Kididis and John Pastirzyk 

Last season: 25-17-4 overall

2019-20 OSHL standings: Newark (32, 15-1-2), Hilliard (26, 12-4-2), Dayton (22, 9-5-4), Northeast (18, 8-8-2), PHA (16, 6-8-4), Westerville (12, 4-10-4), Athens (0, 0-18)

2020 postseason: Defeated Cleveland Wildcats 3-2 (SO); def. North Royalton 7-6 (SO); lost to Dayton 5-2 in pool play at Buckeye Cup state tournament