The Northwest High School Hockey Club had one goal this season — become a team. In both the metaphorical and literal sense of the word.
The club, which is just that — a club — at Northwest because hockey is not an officially sanctioned sport by Montgomery County Public Schools. The Northwest Hockey Club is finishing up its first season as a standalone Northwest only team before the playoffs start this Friday.
So, the Jags Hockey club had to become a team, and the club had to learn how to play together. It has been a journey for the Jaguars who had played on a combined team with players from Quince Orchard last year. This year both schools had enough players to each form their own teams/clubs.
“When I took over as coach this season I told these guys that the object of this season was to become a team,” said Northwest Hockey Club Head Coach Ed Hughes. “And they have, it is the loosest locker room I have ever seen. Nobody gets mad at each other. They play for each other and encourage each other. Everybody picks up for everybody. Even when we let a goal in, everybody is there to pick each other up and try to step up their game.”
The Jags play in the Maryland Student Hockey League in the Montgomery 2 Division. With teams from Sherwood, a Rockville/Magruder, Quince Orchard, a Blake/Poolesville combined team, Wilson, and a team made up of players from the District of Columbia schools known as DC Stars.
The other division, Montgomery 1, features teams from Wootton, Walter Johnson, Blair, B-CC, Whitman, Richard Montgomery, and two different teams from Churchill.
The Jags are second from last in the division and will face the second-best team in the first round of the playoffs, the 9-5 DC Stars on Friday night. The Jags have played DC twice this season and have been on the losing end both times.
“The target for this season was to become a team, and then we’ll see what we can do in the playoffs,” said Hughes, who is a volunteer coach whose son played on the team in the past but has since graduated. “There hasn’t been a team that we’ve played this season that we haven’t scored against. We just need to play better defense.”
As one might expect from a team in its first year of existence, the Jags have had some growing pains in terms of success. Northwest is 4-9-1 on the season after a 12-4 loss to the Damascus team in the last regular season game, which was played last Friday at the Jag’s home rink at Skate Frederick in Frederick County.
“It wasn’t our best effort tonight,” said Hughes about the game which was senior night honoring the team’s two senior leaders Ryan Rosen and Michael Strobel.
While the game may not have gone the way the Jags wanted, the game had everything a hockey fan could want, plenty of goals, non-stop action, a penalty shot, and even a fight.
Hughes explained that the fights are very rare, but a 12 goal game is not uncommon for high school hockey. “It is fairly typical for this age level, and we are a club, so we have players with varying levels of talent. Some kids have been playing travel hockey for a few years and some kids that are just coming out for hockey this season,” said Hughes.
The Damascus team, which is comprised of students from Damascus, Clarksburg, and Gaithersburg scored at the 4:03 mark of the first period when Trevor Drake put the puck past Northwest goalie Matthew Eldridge on a power play after an interference call on the Jags’ Ryan Rosen.
Northwest evened the score as Brendan Lynch got the Jags on the board, with assists from Tristan Meyer and Andrei Bazhin at the 8:49 mark in the first period.
The second period was when Damascus found their scoring touch putting five goals in the next. Both Trevor Drake and Trevor Bibb scored twice, and Nicholas Mohardt added a goal for Damascus in the second period.
Northwest could only manage one goal, as sophomore Jason Steinberg, took an assist from Chase Wilson at the 1:13 mark to cut the Damascus lead to 6-2 at the second intermission.
In the third period, Damascus expanded their lead on another goal by Mohardt, and Drake earned a hat trick on an unassisted goal at the 7:03 mark. The third also saw Northwest goaltender Matthew Eldridge stop a penalty shot by Damascus’ Benjamin Snyder. Snyder was awarded the penalty shot after he was taken down on a trip during a breakaway.
Eldridge faced 34 shots and had 26 saves in the game. The Jags peppered Damascus goalie Jonas Clark with 39 shots, and he was able to turn away 35 shots.
Northwest freshman Chase Wilson scored twice in the third, once at the 9:46 mark with assists from Steinberg and Andrew Zhang, and again at the 4:44 mark with Zhang getting his second assist of the game. Wilson is the Jags’ leading scorer with 10 goals this season, and Zhang is the leading playmaker with 11 assists this season.
Due to this being the first year as a Northwest only team, there are more underclassmen than upperclassmen on the ice. “We have two seniors and two or three juniors,” said Hughes. “We have about 12 freshmen and sophomores combined. They play very well together, and when they get to be upperclassmen, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with. They’ll be hard to beat.”
The immediate future of the club is pretty bright. “We think we have five eighth graders coming up to join the club next year,” explained Hughes. “We have to keep a certain number of hockey players to maintain Northwest team. There are a few players who have siblings entering high school next year, so we’ll have siblings on the team.”
He explains that anyone can come out and join the Jags on the ice, no experience needed. “There is one guy that had never played before on the team right now. He showed up and said he wants to play. This is his first year on the ice, and he saw some ice time tonight. If you are a rec player or first-year player you can come out and play.”
He explained that there is also a JV team, which is a combined Northwest/Quince Orchard team. “Many of our varsity players play JV as well to get more ice time and experience in game situations. If there are folks out there that have never played hockey and they want to play —they can play in JV games. We don’t want kids going into situations where they are going to be uncomfortable. It has to be fun for the kids. It is open to anyone.”
It is a club, which means each player is paying their own way and the coaches are volunteers. Hughes added, “It is co-ed. We’ve had young ladies on the team in the past.”
The Jags are back on the ice for the playoff game against the DC Stars Friday night at 9:50 pm in the Rockville Ice Arena on Southlawn Court in Rockville.
Top: Northwest freshman Chase Wilson (19) rockets a shot at the goal during last Friday’s game. He scored twice in the third period and had an assist in the second period.
Next: Damascus’ Trevor Blake (13) scored three goals in Friday’s game to earn a hat trick.
Next: The Jags celebrate a goal in the third period, James Blurton, Chase Wilson, Andrew Zhang and Anthony Basore skate back to the bench after Wilson’s first goal of the game.
Next: Northwest’s Andrew Zhang skates the puck in for a shot.
Next: Northwest’s Tristan Meyer (28) works the puck deep into the Damascus zone. He has an assist on the Jags’ first goal of the game.
Next: Damascus’ Nicolas Mohardt (19) skates toward the Northwest goal with the puck. He had two goals and two assists in the game.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.
All of the photos in this story, as well as, over 600 photos from this game available for view or purchase at the Germantown Pulse Sports Shop.