September 17, 2014

Medina
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County twins in national high school hockey record book

Medina County residents Luke Sunde, left, and his twin brother Mark, right, are in the United States high school hockey record book. (Photo provided)

Brian Dulik

The Gazette

The leading scorer in United States high school hockey history lives in Medina County.

So does the nation’s all-time assist leader, who just happens to be his twin brother.

Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy senior forwards Luke and Mark Sunde put their names in the record book this winter while heating up the ice in Ohio High School Athletic Association play.

Luke Sunde wrapped up his four-year varsity career with a national-record 399 points, while Mark Sunde shattered the U.S. mark for career assists with 199.

“Playing hockey is always a lot of fun, but being able to share all of our accomplishments as brothers was an awesome experience,” said Mark, whose 352 points are the second most in OHSAA history and rank fourth nationally. “We’ve been playing together on the same team and the same line for so long, we just feed off each other when we’re out there.”

Luke Sunde broke his first major marks in 2011-12, when he scored a state-record 136 points and surpassed the previous Ohio standard of 171 career goals.

As a senior, he broke the National Federation career points record of 372 by Doug Wood of Grosse Point Woods (Mich.) University Liggett.

Mark Sunde eclipsed the national mark of 195 career assists, which was also held by Wood. The only U.S. players to score more points are his younger brother (by 5 minutes), Wood and Jim Johnson of Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Cranbrook-Kingswood with 367.

“It’s been a blessing to play with Mark and to attend such a great school,” said Luke, whose 243 career goals are second all-time to Johnson’s 249. “We were raised in a Christian home, and we’ve been able to meet a lot of people with the same beliefs.

“High school can be a bad experience for some kids, but we’ve been very fortunate because ours has been wonderful.”

Though their family resides in the Buckeye district, the Sunde siblings have spent a significant portion of their lives inside rinks throughout Northeast Ohio. They learned how to skate by the age of 3, then began playing the sport one year later.

Now 18, Luke and Mark can’t imagine their lives — or their futures — without hockey.

“We’ve grown up around the game because my mom’s entire side of the family all played it,” Luke said. “Mark and I never knew we were reaching milestones until our coach (Doug Fairchild) would tell us like a day before we got there. There was never any pressure because we just went out and did our thing on the ice.”

Both brothers say they have drawn inspiration from the professional hockey careers of their uncle Bob and their maternal grandfather Hank.

Bob Bassen played in 858 games over 15 NHL seasons, collecting 256 points and 1,138 penalty minutes for the Islanders, Blackhawks, Blues, Nordiques, Stars and Flames. The gritty center wrapped up his pro career in 1999-2000.

Hank Bassen, a goalie, broke into the NHL during its “Original Six” era with the Blackhawks. He spent nine seasons in the league, appearing in 161 games with a 2.95 GAA while also suiting up for the Red Wings and Penguins.

“Our love for hockey just grew because we always had someone to play with in our family,” Mark said. “Even if it was just a backyard rink, there were people around to skate with us.”

CVCA, which plays its home games at the Kent State Ice Arena, is a member of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League’s White East Division.

Largely thanks to the brothers’ efforts, CVCA advanced to its first sectional final this season. Fittingly, Luke had a hat trick in the season-ending loss to neighboring Walsh Jesuit, while Mark dished out a pair of assists.

“It’s fun to be the underdog and prove people wrong, which we did a lot this season,” Luke said. “No one gave us a chance against Hudson, but we came back (with five unanswered goals in a 5-2 win) and won it.”

Mark agreed, saying the tournament victory over the Explorers was “definitely the biggest highlight of our four years.”

Luke and Mark donned the Royals’ blue and white sweaters for the final time when they were chosen to play in the GCHSHL All-Star Game at Quicken Loans Arena on Feb. 24.

Their hockey careers, however, are far from over as they continue to skate with their club team.

In May, both will travel to Minnesota to take part in a junior scouting combine. While Mark and Luke hope to play NCAA hockey in the future, elite talents typically compete first at the junior level.

“I know I have to work extra hard over the summer to improve, but I definitely want to take the next step,” Mark said. “It’s hard to say how things will play out, but that is my goal.”

Bolstering the talented twosome’s cause is their large, supportive family. Parents Kevin and Sandra, older sisters Rachel and Sarah and younger brother Ben have been in their corner from the start.

 “We have to thank them for putting up with us,” Luke said. “I know it’s not easy going from practice to games to everywhere in between — especially since our practices are in Kent and we live an hour away in Medina — but they’ve always been behind us.

“We wouldn’t be the players and the people we are without them.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.