Hampton hockey players embrace experience on amateur teams

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Thursday, November 15, 2018 | 9:21 PM


For certain players at Hampton, hockey is more than just a high school sport. With that comes benefits, but it also requires sacrifice.

Senior forward Justin Adamski had been playing club hockey with Esmark since the 2014-15 season. Last year, he joined the Penguins Elite U18 squad, one of the top amateur programs in the region.

“Once I was in my U14 year, I realized I had some skill that I can work with,” Adamski said. “I started working a lot harder and setting bigger and better goals for myself.”

Adamski was tied for third in scoring in PIHL Class AA with 14 points before this edition’s deadline.

Hampton’s Michael Orban and Matthew Commendatore play amateur hockey for the Armstrong Arrows, a Midget 18 Tier 2 team. They also are among the PIHL scoring leaders, with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

“Justin is as complete a player as I have seen,” Hampton coach Luke Leya said. “I think (Orban) and Justin work well together. There are few and far between that know where the puck is going to be before it gets there. That’s next level. They can tell what is coming 3, 5, 10 seconds after the fact.”

Though Orban said the 45-minute drive to Kittanning for hockey is a worth the trip, he also loves representing his school.

“Club was really all I had until I got to high school,” said Orban, whose Arrows team was ranked No. 7 nationally in Midget 18 Tier 2. “When I went to a high school game in middle school and the atmosphere, your peers being around, that drew me in so much. I thought it would be so cool to play for my school. It’s unbelievable the skill some of the kids have.”

“I just wanted to have one last hurrah with high school,” said Adamski, who has 10 points in 13 games for Penguins Elite. “I wanted to bring a Penguins Cup to Hampton. It’s been a goal since I was a freshman.”

Orban said the extra time with top-level talent can slow the high school game down a little.

“Playing with some of the kids or even just practicing with them,” Orban said, “you have to be faster, stronger and make decisions quicker. It really helps with high school.”

Leya thinks the experience is good for the kids who want to become well-rounded. Not just in hockey, but in life.

“Any time the kids are exposed to the next level, I think it can do nothing but help them,” Leya said. “The on-ice stuff, the school-life balance, as far as what I can do, what I can’t do, having to sacrifice a lot socially to train and compete … those kids are pretty disciplined.”

Not only does the experience help the players, but it sets an example for the younger players on what it takes to excel at a sport beyond high school.

“They’re looking at these guys, and they see the training; they’re committed,” Leya said. “Sometimes they miss games because they have a chance to play hockey beyond high school, and I think it helps. So, I think it helps them with the balance of school, hockey and life, and gives these younger guys something to look up to, as well.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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