Arrowhead boys hockey coach Carl Valimont has been singing the praises of his top two defensemen, senior Elijah Tormala and junior Dylan Cox, all season long.
Since the incredible AHS season started back in the November, Valimont, a standout for the Milwaukee Admirals for years, has said that in his judgement, Tormala and Cox are the top two defensemen on the same team in the state.
It's difficult to argue with.
Led by Tormala and Cox, the Warhawks have not only put together one of the best records (21-2-1) in the state but also one of the best in school history. The only team with fewer losses ever at Arrowhead came in 2002-03 when the Warhawks won a school record 20 games in a row and finished the year at 20-1-1. Arrowhead has given up just 1.5 goals per game while scoring 145.
"Both Tormala and Cox are very highly skilled hockey players and outstanding defensemen," Valimont said. "These two guys can do a lot of things on the ice. Their defensive skills are obvious. They disrupt a lot of things our opponents are trying to do to us. But remember, they also can score. When those two guys are on the ice, a lot of good things happen."
While their defensive skills are obvious, both also are extremely talented on offense. In fact, going into the WIAA postseason tournament this week, Tormala has 42 points and Cox has 32, two of the top numbers on the team.
"These two guys are defensemen first and scorers second," Valimont said. "They're good in the corners and very good in front of the net. I'll match those two up against any two defenders in the state."
Tormala and Cox have played together for the last five years, splitting time with the Jr. Admirals and at Arrowhead. Because of all of that time together, they're very comfortable on the ice with each other.
"We have very good chemistry together," said Tormala, a four-year varsity player for the Warhawks. "We know where each other is on the ice all the time. It's just natural for us. I know if I make a pass, I know Dylan is going to go get it."
The game comes naturally for Tormala.
"Elijah is one of those kids that a lot of things have come easy for him," Valimont said. "He's a highly skilled hockey player. He's a very skilled skater, runs the power play and has deceptive speed. He's just really smooth on the ice."
As for Cox, hard work has got him to the lofty spot he has today. To show just how hard of a worker he is, Cox shot 51,000 pucks during the offseason from a span of May through October.
"Coach challenged all of us to shoot 50,000 pucks in the off season, so I went to work on that right away," Cox said. "Every time I had the chance, I would go and shoot. I'd shoot in my basement or in the shooting room. There's no doubt it really helped my game."
While both are outstanding players and know each other's games, they've got to this place traveling different roads.
"Tormala is blessed with special skills that come naturally for him," Valimont added. "He's worked hard, but there's no doubt a lot of it has come rather easily for him. At the same time, Cox is a worker bee. To shoot all of those shots last summer tells you about his work ethic. Every time he scores, I ask him how many shots he took last offseason. He smiles and tells me 51,000."
And with the regular season now over and the WIAA tournament set to begin, both are looking for a huge finish, hopefully ending up in Madison at the state tournament.
"It's been a great season so far," Cox said. "We've won a lot of games and won the conference championship, But now it's the tournament. We have to play our best. All of the guys feel the same way. We want to go all the way together."