The DeMatha Catholic High School ice hockey season already is well under way after the Stags returned from a trip to Chicago where they went 1-3. But coach Tony MacAulay was less concerned with his team's record and more focused on the group's improvement.
“We had a couple tasks that we wanted to tackle, as far as our system goes, and I think they did a good job with that,” the 12th-year coach said. “The bigger mountain is getting the team to compete on every shift of every game and not giving up at all, whether we're up, down, shorthanded or up a man.”
Senior Garrett Hasken is the Stags captain and led DeMatha with 22 goals and 41 points last season.
“He's a natural leader both in his play and as well as his character,” MacAulay said. “He's an even-keel person. He's a good mesh between the coaching staff and players.”
Other key returning pieces on the offense are seniors Spencer Keogh (third in points last year with 33) and Grant Grieco (fourth, 30), and junior Steve Partlow (seventh, 27).
MacAulay also sees Pat Tanski (20 points last year) being a key contributor offensively while Jonathan Hudson will be seeing lots of playing time in net. Hudson went 7-6-4 last year with an .851 save percentage and a 3.06 goals against average.
“A lot of those guys have been able to become a tight group after entering DeMatha together,” MacAulay said. “Those guys have been with each other for three and a half years and they're quite comfortable with each other.
“The guys that came up from the younger team have been developing well, too. I think the best part as a coach is they're all getting along and playing for each other, which is nice to see.”
Playing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League, the Stags will be playing against some of the toughest competition in the state, with Landon and Gonzaga expected to be at the top of the league. Last season, DeMatha lost to Landon in the league championship, 5-1.
But MacAulay doesn't expect it to be a three-team race.
“There are going to be some surprises and you're going to see more parity within the league,” he said. “I see the top four teams, even the top five teams being very close. But the sixth, seventh and eighth teams will be able to win a lot too, so we're looking forward to the challenge.”
Eleanor Roosevelt and Bowie are looking to improve on last year's losing seasons. Roosevelt finished last year 5-7 and Bowie went 2-10.