Thirty-nine goals. Forty-eight assists. And plenty of on-ice leadership.
That's what hockey has lost in the last few weeks, as three key players from last year's team—freshman Alec Baer, sophomore Josh Passolt and senior Marshall Tema—told coach Shjon Podein they would not be returning this season.
The Orioles jumped from two wins in 2010-11 to 18 in Podein's first season as coach last year, and each departing player was expected to be a key factor in Park's continued resurgence.
"You don't really fill those spots," Podein said. "You give other guys a chance to step up."
Tema was the first person to tell Podein about his intentions about a month ago. A transfer last year from Providence Academy who provided five goals and 15 assists from the blue line, Tema will be playing in the North American Hockey League this year. The NAHL is a junior league for players ages 16-20.
Then last week, Passolt and Baer both announced they were leaving. Passolt—who was Park's second-leading scorer last season with 21 goals and 19 assists—will be playing for Maple Grove, while Baer is headed to rival . He gave the Orioles an impressive 27 points last year as an eighth-grader—good for third on the team.
While Podein said he wishes all three players well, he didn't mask his disappointment in their decisions.
"I don't want people coming here as a stepping stone," he said. "I want people who are committed to this community.
"The decision all three players made hurts us as a program."
Podein said he has called a team meeting for Wednesday to discuss the departures with his remaining players. The coach said his message will be to embrace this as an opportunity.
"You really have kids who want to be here," Podein said. "It's going to be an exciting challenge."
As for himself, Podein said the defections do not have him wavering about his commitment to the Orioles. A 10-year NHL veteran who won the Stanley Cup in 2001, Podein wouldn't figure to struggle for opportunities in hockey-crazy Minnesota, but he said he wants to build Park into a consistent winner.
"They don't affect me or how I see it," Podein said of the departing trio. "It affects them and it affects the team."