New Albany Roundup: Goalie tandem coming up big for Eagles hockey team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
New Albany's Max Dupler makes a save against St. Charles earlier this season. Dupler and Brandon Beesley have combined to form a strong goalie tandem for the Eagles. Dupler also has seen time at defenseman.

During a season in which New Albany hockey coach Matt Buss needs to maximize every ounce of talent from each of his 14 players, he does not necessarily call his goalie tandem a pleasant surprise, largely because he was confident in their abilities even before play began.

Buss still cannot say enough about the play of seniors Brandon Beesley and Max Dupler, the latter of whom was in the net most of the time last season as the Eagles won their first district championship and now occasionally sees action at defenseman.

“Brandon has played extraordinary this season, as he did last year,” Buss said. “And to have a guy like Max who led us to the district championship, he’s been a huge part of this team. Brandon’s talent has been such a necessity because we’ve needed Max to play as a defender. It’s been a challenge because of our numbers (12 skaters and two goalies).

“Our goaltenders have kept us in games. It’s no secret that because of our numbers, we’ve had to rely on our goalies. They’re selfless.”

Through 11 games, Beesley had made 275 saves on 309 shots (.890) in nine appearances. Dupler played the other two games in goal, making 70 saves and allowing six goals (.921).

New Albany was 0-8-0-3 overall and 0-5-0-2 in the CHC-Red Division before playing Olentangy Orange on Jan. 22.

“(Dupler) will mention things to me between periods and same for me with him,” Beesley said. “We pick each other up. We both understand the position and how difficult mentally it can be.”

Last season, Dupler made 670 saves and allowed 56 goals in 22 games, including New Albany’s district semifinal and final wins, and earned honorable mention all-state honors.

Beesley allowed 36 goals on 392 shots in 16 appearances.

Dupler said he had not played any position other than goalie in almost eight years, but embraced the challenge of skating to help the team.

“I think I skated out in one summer league game for fun but that’s it. I played forward until Pee-Wee and that’s when I started strictly playing goalie,” Dupler said. “I play lacrosse and I get hit there, but I’ve never played hockey with very much contact. It’s been fun being able to hit people. I’ve gotten hit myself a few times. It’s not as bad as I was expecting. As long as you keep your feet moving and are always ready, you’re fine.”

Dupler made 31 saves in his first game in net this season and exceeded that total by eight in a 4-0 loss to Upper Arlington on Jan. 8 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

Beesley said he also was offered the chance to play defenseman but declined to minimize the risk of both goalies being injured at the same time.

“I’m pretty happy with the playing time. I’m not concerned. We’re just trying to get our first win,” Beesley said before last weekend’s games. “I don’t know about my strengths. I know about my weaknesses, though. I have to play the puck better and generate some offense. My play style is to pretty much keep the puck at the net. I don’t venture too far out. It’s just about rebound control. I need to play the puck behind the net and help (teammates) generate scoring opportunities.”

Boys bowlers

thriving on balance

With five competitors averaging between 173.1 and 192 pins per game through six matches, the boys bowling team got out to its best start in the program’s seven seasons.

New Albany was 5-1 overall and in the COHSBC-A and 3-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before a Jan. 20 match against Westerville Central. 

The Eagles won their first five matches and suffered their first loss Jan. 15, falling to Orange 2,276-2,224 at Columbus Square Bowling Palace.

New Albany had not started 5-0 in program history and before this season hadn’t won its opener since its inaugural season of 2014-15.

Elliot Greer averaged 192.0 through six matches, ahead of Lucas Burnard (185.6), Liam Harper (175.1), Noble Conn (175.0) and Damon Jolly (173.1). Harper had the team’s best game through six matches, as he rolled a 244 in a Jan. 14 match against Delaware at Delaware Lanes.

Jada Biller’s 164.1 average before Jan. 18 paced the girls team, which was 4-2 overall and in the COHSBC-A and 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before facing Central. Taryn Jolly averaged 150.8, ahead of Abby Phelps (144.2).

Biller bowled a 215 against Delaware for the girls’ top individual performance entering the week.

Olivia Hovorka and her fellow New Albany swimmers are preparing for the Division I postseason.

Swimmers focus

on postseason

The boys and girls swimming and diving teams wrapped up their regular season Jan. 19 against Orange, more than three weeks before the scheduled Division I sectional meet Feb. 13.

New Albany usually does not race in competitions between its league meet and the sectional, but the absence of a league meet this season – which tentatively had been scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 30-31 but ultimately was canceled – led to the extra practice time.

The OCC is not holding league meets for any of its five divisions. Last year, all of them took place at Kenyon.

New Albany would have sought its sixth consecutive sweep of the boys and girls titles but its first in the OCC-Ohio after 14 years in the OCC-Capital.

“We’ve just been taking it in stride,” coach Dave Wharton said. “We’re trying to keep kids mentally engaged and challenged. COVID has been tough for everybody. The ones who swim year-round have been training since June or July. … (The season has been) proof that keeping them swimming, if only for an hour or whatever the circumstance was, worked. Anytime they can get an opportunity to race, we want to give them that.”

The Eagles did not open until Dec. 18, when the boys lost to UA 130-56 and the girls won 104-82 in a matchup pitting last year’s state runner-up against the third-place Golden Bears.

New Albany swept Orange, as the boys won 131-51 and the girls topped the Pioneers 128-58.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave