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Deck almost state champ

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ON THE MOVE: Oliver Deck and teammate Tanner Tromicak react during Saturday’s high school state championship between Zionsville and Culver Academy.
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STATE RUNNER-UPS: Clinton Central senior Oliver Deck, right, and his Zionsville hockey team lost the state championship to Culver Academy, 2-1, on Saturday at Dwyer. Deck, an assistant captain, posed with fellow captains Alex Shahbaz, Robbie Donovan and Duncan McCourt after being presented their runner-up trophy following the game.
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NICE SEASON: Zionsville’s Jake Guptill puts a hand on Oliver Deck’s shoulder after their 2-1 loss to Culver Academy in Saturday’s hockey state championship.
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LAST CHANCE: Zionsville head coach Aaron Wallace, center back, speaks to his team during a timeout late in Saturday’s 2-1 state championship loss to Culver Academy.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton Central senior Oliver Deck was one period away from hoisting a state championship trophy on Saturday. While the green and white color-scheme for his uniform would be familiar to Bulldog fans, Deck was representing the Zionsville Arctic Eagles of the Indiana State High School Hockey Association in the final in Dwyer, where Culver Academy came back for a 2-1 victory and a state championship.

“We were feeling pretty confident in the locker room (before the third period),” he said. “They just had a couple more good bounces than we did. Both teams worked hard.”

“We had a great season and obviously it’s not the result we wanted,” Zionsville head coach Aaron Wallace. “But, we’re holding our heads high after accomplishing so many things this year. They battled all night, losing 2-1 to the best team in the state year- in-and-year-out.”

Zionsville led 1-0 on a goal by Liam Donovan with five seconds left in the first period and held that lead going into the third period. Culver Academy tied the game just under three minutes into the third period (12:15), when Vlad Eustace pushed in the puck from a scrum in front of the net.

It remained that way for nearly six minutes until Culver’s Gavin Fritch had open ice with only one defender to beat, scoring for a 2-1 advantage. Zionsville had opportunities to tie, with the last coming with 15 seconds to play as each squad battled in front of the Culver goal. Once the puck was cleared to the other end with 11 seconds left, the realization for Deck and his teammates set in that they would come up just short of Zionsville’s first state championship since 2014 (a team on which Deck’s older brother Grant played).

Zionsville’s players and coaches meandered along the ice, sharing emotional hugs and words between them, as the Culver squad celebrated at the other end of the rink.

“This was my first time playing for a state championship,” Deck said. “It was obviously upsetting, but there were a lot of mixed emotions. A lot of memories in going through everything I did with the team and getting that far and it was also sad that we ended up losing.

“I can easily say it’s been the best four years of my life playing with that team,” he added. “It didn’t matter when you showed up at the rink. You were just there to have fun and be with the boys.”

Deck also plays golf and football for Clinton Central and was part of the Bulldogs’ turnaround from a winless season in his junior year to 6-4 this year, but the club nature of Zionsville’s hockey team connected them with a longer season.

“It’s two completely different settings,” Deck said of his other sports. “The hockey team, we’re together from August to March.”

The 17 members of Zionsville’s team is split evenly between students from Zionsville and North Central High School, with the only exception being Deck. He came to love the sport while spending his youth in Canada where he moved in the second grade.

“Both boys started playing in (Alberta) Canada before we moved here,” said Deck’s mother Kim, who works as the data manager for the Clinton Central School Corp. and is Clinton Central’s golf coach.

“When I first moved there, that’s all they talked about out at recess,” Deck said. “It’s kind of like basketball down here. It’s what you do.

“I started playing in the second grade and played ever since then, so 10 years.”

The competition was so good in that area that Kim noted two of the Deck’s friends recently signed contracts with NHL teams and another to play collegiately at Bowling Green. The NHL signings by Ty Smith and Chase Waters didn’t come out of the blue for Oliver.

“We both hung out with them,” he said of he and his brother. “It really wasn’t a surprise. They were both phenomenal when we were growing up. They were both crazy good.”

Deck’s father Mike, who died in 2014, was originally from the Clinton County area, but the family moved often due to his work as an engineer with Archer Daniels Midland.

“They had a plant near Alberta,” Kim said. “It’s a long story, but (Grant and Oliver) were actually born in Mexico. We’ve moved around a lot.”

The family moved back to Clinton County in 2013, but found fewer opportunities for the Decks to scratch their hockey itch. Kim noted that their Realtor told them about the Zionsville situation, with Grant as a high school student immediately able to play and Oliver playing “for a couple years for the Indy Strong.”

Still, Kim lamented some disadvantages for the Zionsville team in facing off against Culver Academy, most notably the high school hockey power has its own rink allowing five days of ice time compared to two for Zionsville. Oliver tries to get in time outside of the team setting.

“You can go to the hockey rinks and as long as nobody is playing (get ice time),” Oliver said, noting no rinks available in Clinton County. “Sometimes, they’ll have stick and puck. It’s kind of hockey’s version of open gym.”

Deck likely competed in his last affiliated game with Saturday’s championship. He plans to attend Ball State next year and study construction management, noting Ball State does have a club team.

“Yeah, I have (thought about playing collegiately),” he said. “The more I thought about it I thought focusing on school would be more beneficial to me.”

While he may be leaving competitive hockey behind, Deck gained another family outside of his own and at Clinton Central with the Arctic Eagles.

“He’s been with us all four years,” Wallace said. “His brother Grant played for me. I’ve had a Deck on my team for the last seven years and Ollie especially came to work every day. He’s an amazing kid, a great teammate and great hockey player. He’s going to go on and do amazing things as a young man and as an adult. I love him, and I’m going to miss the hell out of him.

“They’re just an amazing family. I’ve been blessed to be around them for seven years because they are just awesome people.”

He noted Deck has close relationships from the team that will likely last after this season.

“He’s friends with the guys that have graduated in the past,” Wallace said. “Two of his best friends on this team are at North Central.”