All those dazzling stretch passes, area passes, drop passes and any other passes known to hockey are simply just a small part of the synchronicity on ice that is as Gentry Academy.
Sure the Stars put a lot of work into their tape-to-tape passing. But the same goes for their shutdown defense. The big hits and bar-down goals? Yep, those come with significant sweat, too.
There’s been so much time and effort invested into the Gentry Academy’s fully rounded skillset that, come game time, Stars co-head coach Joe Cullen doesn’t need to do much more than press the On button.
Perfection doesn’t have to be complicated.
“We don’t want them to overthink it out there,” Cullen said after the Stars, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A, breezed to a 6-1 victory over Blake on Saturday at Blake Ice Arena, Gentry Academy’s eighth in as many games this season. The five-goal margin of victory was the narrowest of the season for the Stars, who have outscored their opponents 71-8.
Cullen’s keep-it-simple response came to a question about whether he had issued any instructions on how best to try to beat Aksel Reid, Blake’s standout senior goaltender.
“I don’t like to do that,” Cullen said. “Our players have enough talent that they just shoot the puck and good things happen all by themself.”
Of course, all shooters aren’t created equal. Gentry Academy’s Nick Sajevic is one of those special types of marksmen who combined pinpoint accuracy with overwhelming velocity. His two goals Saturday give him 11 for the season, the most of any Stars player.
“He can snipe,” said fellow senior forward Damon Furuseth, who had a second-period goal and is second on the team with 15 points, five behind Sajevic. “He really works hard.”
Sajevic, who starred in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last fall, typically stays after every practice to work on his shot. He spends a lot of time in Gentry Academy’s dryland area - located in the school's basement - whipping pucks into the back of the net. With purpose.
“I put myself in situations where I would shoot in games, like low by the goal line … everything, so when it happens in the game I’m ready for it,” he said.
Sajevic spent a little extra after-practice time this week preparing for the Reid-led Blake, knowing the No. 21-2A Bears (4-4-0), a state Class 2A tournament semifinalist last season, would probably provide the stiffest competition the Stars will see during the regular season.
“I’ve played against him before, and I know he’s good,” Sajevic said about Reid, his Elite League teammate. “I wanted to beat him.”
Gentry Academy surrendered the first goal on Saturday and was outshot 9-6 in the first period, which ended in a 1-1 tie. The Stars turned it on from there, dominating the second and third periods en route to the win.
“They play the way that we have talked to our team about how we want to play,” Blake coach Rob McClanahan said. “They move the puck well. They move it quickly. They are disciplined. They are as good a team as we’ve played.”
Junior defenseman Connor Brown also scored twice on Saturday, his production serving as a testament to Gentry Academy’s scoring depth that includes contributions from its defensemen and all four forward lines.
“Thats one of the special things about our team,” Sajevic said. “All four lines can score goals. You can put any line out there and you can expect them to score any shift.”