Longenecker gets fresh start at Denver East
By Paul Willis
Jack Longenecker’s disappointment and uncertainly quickly turned into elation.
One of the leading scorers on the Bishop Machebeuf hockey team as a junior last season, Lognenecker and his teammates were shocked at the revelation that the Buffaloes were doing away with their hockey program.
“There wasn’t very much of a clear explanation as to why the team disbanded,” Longenecker said. “We’d been a pretty successful team throughout the past 10 years or so.”
Players guessed it might have had something to do with the notion that there were very few actual Machebeuf students who played for the team – the lone program in the city limits of Denver.
While Longenecker was mulling what to do as a senior, the good news came. Denver East announced it was taking over the city team. East is where Longenecker goes to school.
The Angels – the first hockey team in the history of the Denver Public Schools – will pick up many of the holdovers from the Machebeuf team, including top defenseman Anders Saarela.
In addition, a few East students who formerly co-oped to Kent Denver will now stay put. Included is goaltender Zack VanSky.
“East is going to be good,” Longenecker said. “It’s kind of a pooling of the two programs, so it should be even stronger than it has been the last few years.”
Machebeuf finished 13-7-1 last season and advanced to the quarterfinals, where the Buffaloes were ousted by eventual state champion Ralston Valley. Longenecker finished with 19 goals and 29 assists, totals only bested on his squad by senior all-state selection Nick Rems (31 goals, 35 assists).
Longenecker, who also plays Midget hockey with the Arapahoe Warriors, was initially disappointed to leave behind the green and gold of Machebeuf. But he’s extremely stoked about playing his senior year at his own school. It’s something he never would have guessed was a possibility.
“At first, the Machebeuf program folded before any of us knew there was going to be an East team,” he said. “So for awhile, no one really knew what was going to happen, so there was a lot of turmoil.
“Now that East is having a team, I think myself and a lot of other guys are excited to just get to work and just have a chance to play for our own school before graduation.”
The Angels have tabbed former Boston College player Chris Delaney as their inaugural head coach. Delaney is well known in local hockey circles as one of the coaches of the Denver Jr. Pioneers.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” said Delaney, who will remain with the Jr. Pioneers. “This is the first hockey team in the history of the Denver Public Schools, which is well over 100 years.
“We have a good group of kids, a good group of seniors that are excited about competing right away and making an impact right off the bat.”
The Angels will play out of Big Bear Ice Arena, the same venue utilized by the Machebeuf squad. The building is about six miles away from Denver East’s perch just to the west of downtown Denver.
Delaney is hoping to build off of Cherry Creek’s model. The Bruins revived their varsity program two seasons ago, and after a rough opening year advanced to the final four last season. The chief difference is that the Angels figure to be able to skip the difficult first season with top-level talent already in tow.
Delaney also hopes to quickly build auxiliary programs and have East competing in the fall.
“Denver has the highest enrollment in the state, and with East being the only hockey team, we have a big pool to choose from,” he said.