Extraordinary Talent Showcase at GTR Cup
By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
BRILLIANT ATHLETE: Colby Evans attempts a goal.
HARRY LENTZ for GTR Newspapers
Young talent will take center stage when the first Cup unfolds Dec. 19 and 21 at the Center. Broken Arrow sophomore Sonny Hester leads the Tulsa Youth Hockey Association high school division with 15 goals in five games while Jenks’ sophomore Mason O’Brien ranks as the No. 1 goalie in the league.
Broken Arrow coach Tom Karalis, former Tulsa Oiler, said Hester just turned 15, but he’s already a veteran in the sport, suiting up for the his coach at age five. O’Brien comes from the famed baseball family and swings the bat for Owasso in the spring.
“Hester is on a tear right now,’’ said Karalis of his high-scoring center. “I brought him up two years ago when we were short on players because he had the talent. He’s been on fire ever since.’’
Karalis said it’s Hester’s speed, shot selection and positioning that sets him apart from most players in the league.
“He’s always at the right place at the right time,’’ said the coach. “He does have a lot of natural talent and he’s starting to realize that. He has gained a lot of confidence and he’s trying to do now what he wouldn’t try to do a year or six months ago.
“He’s still young, but he’s pushing to be the best player in the league. He has an offensive knack for scoring and he can score goals with the best of them.’’
Hester recently guided Broken Arrow in dealing Jenks its first loss of the season. However, he did have a little help from his friends.
“He doesn’t score unassisted,’’ Karalis said. “He’s playing with some good players, but when the opportunity comes up for him, he buries it. His dream is to play Division hockey or keep playing wherever he can (after high school). That would be wonderful.’’
Challenging Hester’s offensive prowess in the Cup will be O’Brien, who possessed a .902 save percentage and a 2.8 goals against average through the first five games of the season.
“He’s a natural athlete,’’ said Jenks coach Sly Naud, another ex-Oiler. “He plays baseball for Owasso and it doesn’t matter what he decides to do, he’s good at it. He comes from a long line of baseball players, but his father John became interested in hockey when the Oilers started up again in 1992-93. He became a big hockey fan and passed it on to his son.’’
Naud said O’Brien is dedicated to improving his goalie skills and his butterfly technique. His size is a plus, especially between the pipes.
“He’s tall and covers the net really well. You may think he’s out of position, but he comes from nowhere to get back to the net and make a save,’’ Naud said. “He’s definitely a game changer and we’re counting on him for the next two or three years.’’
Naud said he can see a college or junior career ahead for O’Brien.
“Oklahoma being a football and baseball state foremost, John and his wife support Mason in whatever he wants to do. He’s capable of playing hockey in college, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet he follows baseball.
“I never liked goalies because they kept me from doing what I wanted to do (score) and I would hate to platy against this guy. He’s very seldom out of position and when other teams make their game plans, Mason’s name always comes up in the conversation. He gives us a chance to win every game.’’