HAVERFORD – Jagur McClelland is mid-sentence, explaining how long he and many of his teammates have played together, when the quiet of the Haverford High lobby is interrupted.
The hallway is the temporary place of honor for the Class AA Flyers Cup, won by McClelland’s Fords last week, displayed behind rope barriers on a fire-engine-red pedestal. As McClelland explains how the 2021 Fords got to hoist the hardware, two students and two staffers walk up to admire and pose for pictures with the three-foot-tall wood trophy topped by a silver cup.
It’s that embrace from the Haverford community that informs how McClelland and his teammates reached this point. With a rink in town and a vibrant feeder system, it’s long been a fertile ground for kids to learn the sport. Those structures informed McClelland’s journey, and he pays tribute with his on-ice performance, the fruits of which he hopes will supercharge the cycle for the next group of players.
“People are excited for us,” he said. “People want to see us succeed, and I think they know what we’re capable of. Now that we’re kind of on the map, people are excited for us, people are happy for us.”
The junior forward wasn’t just the leading scorer on a team that earned Haverford’s first Flyers Cup in 14 years. He led at the most crucial moments in a 16-2 season in which the Fords also won the Central League and played for a state title.
For his contributions, McClelland is the 2020-21 Daily Times Hockey Player of the Year. He’s joined on the All-Delco team by Haverford linemate Jacob Orazi and classmate Nate Rabadam; Strath Haven center Walter Clauss and winger Max Riess; Cardinal O’Hara goalie Ronan Marley and Springfield center Zach Crain.
Five of the seven honorees are seniors, except McClelland and Rabadam. All seven are first-time honorees, in part due to last year’s hiatus in the All-Delco hockey team. The All-Delco team is selected in consultation with local coaches.
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McClelland comes from a hockey family. His dad, Glenn, who played varsity at West Chester University, was his first coach. McClelland has early memories on skates as young as three, going on family skates in Ardmore. (For the record, he says, his first name isn’t a misspelled homage to Mick Jagger; it’s just a name his mom found interesting and different.)
McClelland fell in love with hockey in part because of its uniqueness. While his peers started in soccer or baseball, he was on a different path. He tried lacrosse and baseball, but nothing ignited his “love and passion” quite like hockey.
READ: All-Delco Hockey: Orazi, Rabadam helped lead Haverford to storybook season
Eventually, that fed him into Haverford’s developmental pipeline, which offers high-level youth hockey. He dove headlong into the community, and he’s played alongside some of his high school teammates for a decade or more, none longer than Rabadam.
“Off the ice, it’s gone a long way for us,” McClelland said. “We’ve known each other basically our whole lives. With the points and everything, it shows how much chemistry we have and how it’s led to our success this year. I think that was a big thing for us this year, the chemistry for guys that are close to each other, and that took our team a long way.”
In sixth grade, he started playing for John Povey, who also coaches varsity. McClelland’s potential was obvious, and it’s shown through at most stops up the age ladder. Povey sees a decisive jump in most players between the sophomore and junior years, but he was still startled by just how much McClelland elevated his game.
“You really saw him take it to the next level from the end of last year to this year,” Povey said. “A lot goes into that: He got bigger, he got stronger, he got more mature. He was one of our captains this year, so you saw him take on more of a leadership role. … You really saw him take on a whole new level this year of dominating games night in and night out.”
The spark was uniting McClelland on a line with Orazi. Both are centers, and Povey wanted each to anchor a line to offer some depth. But midseason, with the Fords not living up to their potential, Povey sought a spark (temporarily, he thought) with McClelland in the middle and Orazi on the wing.
Instead, the chemistry was so instant and fantastic that Povey couldn’t separate them, a move aided by Dan Quartapella’s return to center the second line. The linemates finished 1-2 in scoring in the county: McClelland with 24 goals, 28 assists and 52 points; Orazi with 21, 26 and 47, in 18 games apiece.
McClelland shone brightest in the big moments. He was the best player on the ice with two goals and two assists in the Central League semifinal against Conestoga, then recorded a hat trick in an 11-1 dismantling of Springfield in the final. McCelland scored three goals and an assist in the first round of the Flyers Cup and two and three in the quarters, winning the Class AA Bobby Clarke MVP Award.
But the big moment came in the final against Downingtown West. The Fords were stuck in neutral, unable to beat goalie Aidan McHutchinson with any of their first 28 shots. Then McClelland recovered a puck in the neutral zone, steamed down the left wing and beat McHutchinson short side with a rising shot that sent the water bottle flying off the roof of the net.
Orazi scored 10 minutes later, the eventual game-winner, and Haverford led 2-1 after two.
“They’re beating us 1-0 and who comes up with the big goal? It’s Jagur,” Povey said. “Your best player has to be the one who comes through there. In a championship game, that’s usually who’s going to come through. That’s the type of player he is to take the bull by the horns and get our team back in that game. That was the biggest goal of the year for us obviously.”
McClelland’s takeaway was what the goal did for his team. He saw the bench and crowd energized, and he hopes that had something to do with the Fords rallying. He tried to do the same in the Pennsylvania Cup final with the primary assist on Mike McGeoch’s goal, but the Fords fell to Baldwin, 4-1.
That loss sets next season’s objective, one McClelland hopes the Fords have the experience to attain.
“Everyone knows what it’s going to take,” McClelland said. “Guys that didn’t play that much this year, they’re going to be on the team and they’re going to know what it takes to win. Me, Nate, Jai (Jani, the goalie), we’re going to be the core of the team next year, so we’re going to have to step up and we’re going to have to help out the younger kids because we know what it’s going to take and what we’re going to have to give to get to that point that we were this year.”
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