The O'Fallon Panthers Ice Hockey Club was the defending Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association 2A champions going into the season and played like it.
Leading the Panthers' attack was Graham Sudduth. The 18-year-old was the most prolific scorer on an O'Fallon team that often found the back of the net.
The Panthers boasted three players in the 20 top in scoring in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area this season. Sudduth, the son of Ed and Linda Sudduth, ended the season sitting atop that list, which included both Illinois and Missouri schools. He had 82 total points.
"If you are passionate about something and work hard, you can accomplish anything," Sudduth said about what lessons he has learned from playing the game. "It has also shown me the importance of teamwork and friendship."
Others making the scoring list for O'Fallon were Jack Wallace, who was ninth with 61 points, and Logan Drolet, who was in a three-way tie for 18th place with 47 points.
O'Fallon had four or more goals in all but two of its games this season and scored in double digits on nine occasions en route to posting a 17-7-1 record and a second-place finish in the playoffs.
The team had six All-Stars, seniors Sudduth, Drolet, Kristen Smith, Chris Duncan and Travis Manthe, and Wallace, a junior.
"It was the third time at the championship those kids had in a row," said O'Fallon coach Jason Power.
After sweeping Freeburg/Waterloo in the first round of the post season, O'Fallon fell in the championship to Columbia 2-0 in the best-of-three series.
Sudduth scored 55 goals on the year, which was second in the St. Louis area, and he assisted on 27 others, sixth in the St. Louis area.
"He was the silent leader of the team all year in the locker room. He was clearly the dominate player on the ice," Power said.
In only one game, Dec. 19 verses Belleville, was Sudduth denied from netting a goal, though he did earn an assist in the 2-2 tie.
Sudduth also had 12 hat tricks on the season, also the most of any player in the St. Louis area, including four games in which he scored five goals and two where he had four.
And his totals could have been even higher.
"There were a lot of games where we could have kept him on the ice and he could have racked up even more points," Power said.
But instead, Sudduth took time on the bench to let less experienced players in the game, and his coach said he was always encouraging them.
"He was a good mentor to the younger players," Power said.
Sudduth said he's just returning the encouragement he received along the way.
"I play hockey because I love the game and the family atmosphere," he said. "I started playing when I was 4 years old. My success is because of all of my hard work and the support of all my friends and coaching growing up."