By Wes Reid
With only two players graduating from last year’s state championship tournament team and 10 rising seniors back to form the nucleus of this year’s squad, Durant High School’s hockey team has some lofty expectations this season, and for good reason. The Cougars are Paragon Hockey’s state championship favorite.
Durant’s hockey program, now in its fourth year of existence, has its sights set on securing a spot in the Lightning Cup Final at AMALIE Arena, as well as a return trip to the SAHOF State Championships tournament.
The Cougars are led by arguably the best goaltending tandem in the Lightning High School Hockey League (LHSHL) and a stout defense, composed of five senior defensemen. Senior captain Jordan Putnam leads the team in scoring, with an average of over three points per contest, while seven other skaters are averaging more than a point per game. Alternate captains Michael Romeo, Xander Wise and Joshua McKeen play strong leadership roles on the squad and are well respected by their teammates.
With many of the players now in their third or fourth year in the program, this year’s squad sits atop the LHSHL’s Eastern Conference at the midway point of the season. Some of the credit for the program’s success can be attributed to an experienced and expansive coaching and administrative staff; with the player-to-coach ratio under 4 to 1, the club prioritizes near-individualized instruction during its practice sessions. The amount of support Durant has for its hockey team should be the benchmark for high school hockey.
A culture of excellence has been crafted by the coaching staff, and the players hold each other accountable to provide maximum effort for the good of the team. Head Coach Todd Comunale has found the right ingredients and he has proven to be a master chef.
Player Spotlight: Junior forward, #5 Dante Denny has silky smooth hands, vision, speed, poise and, best of all, a great attitude. This kid isn’t missing much, if anything, from what it takes to be a complete player. Denny’s ability on the ice comes directly from his work ethic and mindset. Keep an eye on this kid. He has one year left and he hasn’t even come close to his ceiling.
2020-2021 to date: 11-2-0