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home : lt sports : sports April 29, 2016

3/15/2013 8:00:00 AM
Girls hockey improves despite inexperience, coaching change
Parus named all-conference to cap impressive season
Tori Parus was the second Thunderbird girls’ hockey player to be named to an all-conference team. Dean Hall photograph
Tori Parus was the second Thunderbird girls’ hockey player to be named to an all-conference team. Dean Hall photograph

Coming off a single-win season a year ago, the Lakeland Union High School girls hockey team saw great improvement as they collected six wins despite having a young team and the distraction of losing the only coach the program has known.

Coach Rick Zelm took a leave of absence midway through the season due to personal reasons and then resigned after the year was completed.

Assistant coach Steve Bucklew took over and was impressed with how the team took everything in stride.

“The girls deserve all the credit in the world for the season they pulled off,” Bucklew said. “Through many distractions, they began to hit their strike in mid-January and never looked back.”

And Lakeland did all that with a young team that included just four seniors.
One of those seniors was goalie Tori Parus, who was honored by the conference coaches as an honorable mention all-conference.

She is just the second Thunderbird to earn an all-conference honor.

“Tori had a tremendous season,” Bucklew said. “As a four-year starter and team captain, she brought a ton of experience and leadership to the team.”

Parus collected a .903 save percentage while going 6-11 and notching three shut-outs.
Bucklew said Parus’s stats are even more impressive when you consider the number of shots she faced.

“In those four years [as a starter], there is not another goalie out there who had to face more shots and yet her save percentage was among the top three in our conference,” the coach said. “In girls’ hockey statewide, you would have to look very hard to find someone as fundamentally solid as Tori.”

The task of filling Parus’s skates will fall to Megan Hudy, who played in six games this season, earning a 2-3-1 record at a .807 save percentage.

“Without a question the team will miss [Parus] very much,” Bucklew said. “But we have a senior goalie in Megan Hudy who has backed up Tori the last three season and we feel she will have a great season next year.”

While Parus will be missed, so will the three other seniors who saw plenty of ice time this year.

Sarah Albano, Brooklyn Emmerich and Morgan Dunbar combined to score 15 points this season and in the case of Albano was one of the key defenders on the Lakeland back line.

But offensively, the Thunderbirds will have their top five scorers back next season.

Leading that group is freshman Isabelle Johnson. Johnson tallied a team-high 33 points including 18 goals and 15 assists. She also had one game-winner.

In three games this season, she had more than three goals, twice scoring four goals in a single game.

Also returning will be Jamie Muenzner. Muenzner was second on the team with 19 points, including 10 goals and nine assists.

Lakeland had three players each score 13 points on the season.

Taylor Lopez led that group with seven goals and six assists, while freshman Kelli Straubel had five goals and eight assists.

Cali Hunter rounded out the group with four goals and nine assists.

With all that firepower returning, Lakeland is looking for even more improvement even as one big question mark remains – who will be the next head coach?

Bucklew appears to be the front-runner for the job when he announced he would apply for the head coach position but the school is currently in the process of selecting the new coach.

The next coach will have a talented group with which to work, Bucklew said.

“I truly believe that next year’s team will only improve and continue to progress, following in the footsteps of this team,” Bucklew said. “I know [assistant] coach [Bill] Parus and myself couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to work with. No matter who the coaches are next year, they will be a team to watch out for.”

Bryan Rose may be reached via email at sports@lakelandtimes.com.

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