Granite City hockey coach Scott Topal likes to have options, and thanks to Matt Burton, Ryan Tinsley and Nick Sabol, he has plenty of them.
Burton and Sabol, who are senior forwards, and Tinsley, a senior defenseman, are among the top players for the defending MVCHA 2A champion Warriors, who took a 13-2 record into Tuesday's regular-season finale against Althoff at the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights.
"Having Sabol along with Burton and (Brant) Takmajian gives us a little more offensive punch and we can move them around to give us a second line that's capable of scoring," Topal said. "Sabol is a playmaker and he controls the puck when he's on the ice, but he also likes to put the puck in the net.
"Burton plays a little more of the physical portion of the game and he likes to get those assists. I've said many times he's probably the best player I've coached. He plays both ways, he's unselfish and he steps up for the big games.
"Tinsley is a rock-solid defenseman and it helps that he'll score 10 or 12 goals a year. There are a lot of forwards that don't score as many goals as he does."
Sabol recently returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a broken right wrist.
"It's still a little sore, but I've broken it before," said Sabol, who has 13 goals and eight assists. "I'll just rehab it, get some hand strength, work with some weights or put my hand in a rice bowl, whatever it takes to get it better."
Sabol was one of four seniors that came over from the now-defunct Granite City Mid-States Hockey Association team, which folded after last season.
"It wasn't a hard transition at all. If anything, it's a little easier for all of us because we've got more skill," said Sabol, who is an assistant captain along with Tinsley and Takmajian. "I've been friends with a bunch of these guys since I was 4 years old.
"It was frustrating missing time with the injury this season, but being back for the playoffs is very important. We're hoping to win another championship."
At 6 foot and 150 pounds, Sabol isn't a power forward. That's a role filled by Takmajian, who has a team-high 32 goals and 43 points.
"We've got everybody healthy now and we're playing well, so we just need to keep the momentum going," Sabol said.
Sabol hopes to play college hockey, possibly at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
Burton, a four-time MVCHA all-star and the team MVP in 2010-11, hopes to close out his prep career with a second championship. He has 12 goals and 22 assists.
"That's what every senior wants," said Burton, in his second year as team captain. "I've pretty much been playing hockey my whole life and I've been working the last couple years on physically getting in shape, which has helped a lot with my speed and my conditioning.
"Most of the seniors have been playing together forever, so it's really nice to have all of us on the same team. We've been best friends for a long time."
Burton also hopes to play on the collegiate level, but hasn't chosen a school yet.
Tinsley, in his second year as an assistant captain, is a three-time MVCHA all-star. He was one of nine seniors honored prior to the Warriors' 8-0 win over Belleville East on Jan. 10.
"We've got a lot of guys that come out strong every night and we're able to move the puck around pretty good and put it in the net," said Tinsley, who has nine goals and 19 assists. "If anything, we're probably better than last year. We've grown up a little bit and as the season has gone along, we've gotten better chemistry. Every one of the guys that came over (from Mid-States) has really helped the team."
As an offensive defenseman, Tinsley takes pride in contributing on both ends of the ice.
"I like to use my dekes and my shot to score, and if I can come back and make a big hit or block a shot, that's a plus," Tinsley said.
Next year, Tinsley plans to play on the junior level for the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League.
"They're based in Frisco, which is right outside of Dallas," Tinsley said. "I can play for them until I'm 20, but hopefully I can get a scholarship and play Division I somewhere," Tinsley said.