So far, so good for the Central Indiana Knights in 2022.
As Rob Pozzebon sees it, what began with some major strides in 2020-2021 – his first season as the Knights’ head coach – has continued into the ’21-’22 season.
The program continues to improve. The players continue to buy in. And a solid finish to the season – and solid postseason – is a real possibility.
“We’re a little ahead of what we were last year,” Pozzebon said.
The Knights, a Central Indiana high school hockey program made up of players from Cathedral, Guerin, Noblesville and Park Tudor, had been in something of a transition in recent seasons. But with Pozzebon now in his second season, the Knights through mid-January had a 15-12-2 record and were ranked No. 14 in Indiana according to myhockeyrankings.com.
After a Class 2A runner-up season in 2020-2021, Pozzebon said the program appears to be a solid Class 3A program in 2021-2022 – and one capable of contending with and beating the state’s top programs.
“I would say this year is a lot of a continuation of what we've built last year,” Pozzebon said. “When we play our best, we can beat anyone.”
Pozzebon as an example cited the Knights’ performance against Carmel Gold and Hamilton Southeastern – two of Central Indiana’s top programs – this season. The Knights went winless against Carmel Gold in ’20-’21, but beat the program early this season in overtime and has tied Hamilton Southeastern.
“Overall, I'm super happy with the way we play when we play well,” Pozzebon said. “I thought we'd be a little better defensively and we're continuing to work on that. I think it was one of those things where as a coach, we probably didn’t focus enough early. We've shifted, and we're focusing more on that now.
‘We've been better defensively over the last month than the first month and a half or so.”
The Knights returned 11 players from last season, which Pozzebon said is a bit more turnover than is ideal. But he said the program has benefitted from strong leadership from returning players.
“The new guys have really bought in like the returning guys, so from a coaching standpoint the teaching of the culture and the expectations … the kids kind of taught themselves,” he said. “The returning players taught the new players what the expectations were. It’s been quite nice, actually.
“From my standpoint, there has been more of an ability to coach the kids and teach new things without having to restructure or build the structure again.”
The Knights in ’21-’22 feature four Cathedral players making key contributions:
*Will McCormick, junior forward. He was second on the Knights in goals and third in scoring through early January.
*Max Goodburn, junior forward. He was fourth on the Knights in scoring and goals through early January.
*Grant Goodburn, sophomore forward.
*Jack Bedich, sophomore forward.
“They’re all just good athletes, and more than that they're good kids,” Pozzebon said of the Cathedral foursome. “They're a positive influence on our program. And some of our more talented players. They're collectively a good group.
“They're good kids to have as far as from a statistic standpoint, but they’re also good kids to have from a team standpoint. They’re good team guys. Even though there are points leaders, they're good from a team culture standpoint.”
Pozzebon said while the Knights’ record and rankings are relatively similar to where they were this time last season, this year’s version is perhaps a stronger team overall – one with lofty postseason aspirations.
“We're very similar in numbers to last year,” he said. “The difference was last year we played a lot of close games on the defensive side. This year, we are just a better team offensively. Last year, we were pretty accurately ranked. This year, I feel like were better than our ranking and can compete with anybody.
Pozzebon said the Knights’ program also remains strong for the long-term, with 20 players in the varsity program and eight in the junior varsity program.
“We'll be in good shape next year and moving forward as well,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a good tournament run and I’m looking forward to a good last couple of months, I think we can really elevate our game and end up where I think we should be.”