Known for protecting the net in soccer, R.J. Stoller has proven quite adept at putting pucks into the net in hockey.
The senior, who was named second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-league as a goalie in soccer, has been scoring in bunches as a forward on the Thomas Worthington hockey team.
Stoller had 25 goals and 10 assists in 15 games to lead the Cardinals, who were 10-9 overall and 6-2 in the CHC-White Division before playing St. Charles on Jan. 7 and Cincinnati St. Xavier on Jan. 8.
“The mindset is so much different,” Stoller said. “During soccer season, I put so much stress on myself in pregame and practice. As a goalie, it’s so much pressure because if you make a mistake, it’s known. The ball is in the back of the net.
“But with hockey – before the game – I’m much more relaxed. (There’s) still stress, but you don’t have the individual fear of messing up.”
Goalie Elliott Hartwick helped Stoller improve his wrist shot. In the past, Stoller’s shot has been more brute force than finesse.
“We’re lucky to have Elliott in practice,” Stoller said. “If you can score on him, you can score on anyone. I’ve worked on reading the goal to know where to put it. It doesn’t have to be the fastest shot; it just has to go where you want it to go and hopefully it beats the goalie.”
Hartwick had 503 saves and a .937 save percentage in 16 games this season.
Last year, Stoller had 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points, second only to 2021 graduate Evan Kendall’s 30 points on 13 goals and 17 assists.
“(Stoller is) a very good athlete and a very competitive guy,” coach Bill McGill said. “He’s a pretty good size kid and that helps him a lot with his reach. He’s fast and he’s big and he knows how to find the net now.”
With last year’s goals leader, Collin Stegmiller, out for much of the season with a broken wrist, Stoller has gotten the opportunity to play on the same line with his brother, Cam.
“We’ve worked better than I thought we would together, which has been a blast,” R.J. Stoller said. “We’ve never actually played on the same team together, but we’ve always practiced together. We’ve got a little internal chemistry. We’re hard on each other, for sure, but it’s been rewarding. It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. ... It’s been awesome.”
Cam Stoller entered play Jan. 7 second on the team with 11 goals. He also had eight assists.
Stegmiller had a goal and six assists in four games after scoring 15 goals last season. He scored a goal and had four assists in an 11-0 win over Watterson on Jan. 2 in his first game back.
Defenseman Alex Piero led the Cardinals with 15 assists to go with four goals.
“I take a backseat to him,” R.J. Stoller said. “He’s more of the guy that’s guiding the younger guys. He’s really good leading the guys off the ice.”
R.J. Stoller had four goals and three assists against Watterson and five goals and an assist in a 9-1 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Dec. 17.
“He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy and leadership and he motivates guys to play better,” McGill said. “The competitiveness is contagious. He wants the puck and he has a tendency to come up with it.”
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Hockey: R.J. Stoller’s play nets results for Thomas Worthington