When Jesse Abarca won Player of the Year honors in 2012-13 after the West Chester East boys ice hockey team won the State Championship, then-freshman Chris Rodier set a new goal in the back of his mind.
“I remember when we won the state championship, a kid on my team, Jesse Abarca, was Player of the Year,” Rodier said. “I always looked up to it and thought it would be so cool to do my senior year.”
Four years later, Rodier can now check that accomplishment off as he is named the Daily Local News All-Area Ice Hockey Player of the Year.
“Being able to do it is a big honor because there are a lot of great players in this league,” he said.
“On the ice, he’s the guy that, if you’re not a West Chester East fan, you probably don’t like him much,” said East head coach Eric Wolf. “He’s going to stir up things a little bit, he’s going to stick his nose in and, along with his skill set, which is second-to-none in our league, makes for a pretty dangerous player.”
At the beginning of the season, the Vikings players chose to see who would be named captain.
In an overwhelming vote, Rodier was named their leader.
“It confirmed everything I had seen in Chris as just a natural leader,” Wolf said. “I was glad to see the vote went the way it did because it just reaffirmed my belief in what he could be and what he is. He’s a great leader. He just doesn’t want us to fail. If we do fail, he makes sure we learn from it. I can’t have enough of those guys.”
Despite an injury early in the season, Rodier came back to play in all but one of East’s ICSHL games, finishing with 43 points (17 goals and 26 assists) in 18 games.
Five of those goals were game winners, second only to Eddie Russell by one and he was invaluable on the man-advantage, assisting on seven power-play goals.
“He doesn’t just play one-way and look for the offensive opportunities,” Wolf said. “He backchecks hard and is hard on the puck. Not being the biggest guy in the world, he plays much bigger than his size. That’s what the coaches I spoke with admire most about him.”
East finished the regular season first in the Ches-Mont, winning 16 of its 19 games, though they fell short in the Ches-Mont Championship game and were knocked out of the Flyers Cup tournament in the semifinals.
“We had a great group of guys this season,” Rodier said. “We really went out and battled every night. There is only one team that is going to get there and win it all in the end and it’s not going to be you every time – unless you’re Rustin, I guess.”
Through all of the ups in the regular season and the unfortunate downs of the postseason, Rodier was there, leading the way on and off the ice for his team, something which Wolf was proud to see him do.
“His words are emotional and powerful, especially when the situation calls for it,” he said. “I know when I step out of the locker room after talking, Chris is going to reinforce what I said and also add in that part of a player’s emotion that a coach just can’t give.”
Even in a loss, Rodier continued to show leadership qualities.
“This guy does not want to lose,” Wolf added. “It isn’t that he’s a sore loser, but it hits him. You can see that it hurts and that it tears at him emotionally. He’s going to let it bother him for a couple minutes and then he’s going to figure out a way to do it better so that it doesn’t happen again. That’s what I see in him.”
Even outside of the rink, Rodier can be seen as a true example of a leader in his ability to balance his academic life with his student-athlete life.
The senior is the president of the East’s National Honors Society, along with being an AP Scholar with distinction and holding a 4.4 GPA.
Though this is the end for Rodier’s high school career, he plans to continue with hockey through college.
“I’m going to go to college for pre-medical study and play club somewhere, but I’m not sure where yet,” he said. “I’m lucky, though. I’ve been able to play four years of high school hockey with some of my best friends, so I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”
Runner-up: Jack Magee, Downingtown East