By Matt Mackinder
Things are different for Andrew Benyo in his second season with the Toledo Cherokee.
Toledo has a younger team, the North American 3 Hockey League realigned its divisions and Benyo has taken on a leadership role for the Cherokee – all positives from Benyo’s perspective.
“So far, I am very pleased with how our team has turned out,” said Benyo. “The team chemistry is great and I think these younger kids are adapting to how the season plays out. They're understanding how tough it is to earn points each weekend and especially protecting our own ice. From my own standpoint, I'm not getting as quick of a start as I was looking for, but it's starting to come around now.
“I think as long as our team stays healthy throughout the season, we will put up a tough game against anyone 5-on-5. We have depth in our lineup with a lot of new kids who are hungry to get their chance.”
Last season, the 18-year-old native of Westland, Mich., tallied 29 points in 47 games and this year has a goal and five points through seven games.
Toledo coach Scott Syring sees Benyo’s value on and off the ice.
“Andrew is a very well-rounded player who I believe is capable of playing in the North American Hockey League,” said Syring. “He actually made Springfield’s team this year, but was released before their first game due to numbers. Andrew understands that’s part of the game and Springfield has said they will keep tabs on him and we will do all we can to help move Andrew up. He is a very gifted player from a defensive standpoint and I respect that being that way back when, I was once a defenseman.”
This past spring, Benyo was selected to play in the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament in Frisco, Tex., and scored three goals in four games for Team North. Being picked for such a prestigious event opened Benyo’s eyes a bit as to how much his talent was being noticed throughout the NA3HL.
“Playing in the prospects tournament last year was a lot of fun,” Benyo said. “It was good competition every game we played down there. Also, playing with the kids you had to battle against all season long was a fun situation, too. Meeting all the new guys down there and just getting to spend a week in Texas was well worth it.”
It also makes all the years of youth hockey worth it as well.
Benyo started skating when he was three and joined his first team the following year in Westland with his father as his coach. He moved to travel hockey at the age of eight and continued to play through Midgets in the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League. Two years ago, Benyo played for the Allen Park Huskies before making the jump to Junior A with the Cherokee.
“My goal is to play college hockey, but I can't imagine seeing myself not playing some type of hockey for the rest of my life,” Benyo said. “It's been a huge part of my life and I don't know when I could ever let it go.”