While the National Hockey League continues its lockout, there are still options to fill your ice hockey needs.
Maryland features plenty of high school ice hockey programs and many of the top clubs, which are not officially affiliated with a high school in the public ranks, call Montgomery County home.
In the Montgomery Hockey Conference, perennial powerhouses Thomas S. Wootton, Walt Whitman and Winston Churchill are again expected to be the teams to beat.
Churchill, as usual in recent memory, has the potential to be the most dangerous of the bunch.
Zach Arden and Connor Martin are among the top returning forwards, and with Zach Satin patrolling the blue line, this group is expected to challenge for the conference and Maryland Student Hockey League state title. But to get there, coach Ray McKenzie says avoiding injuries will be critical. Arden was injured for most of last winter.
“We need to stay healthy,” he said. “We need our young guys to contribute. We have all these freshmen coming in but we need them to get better. We have talent, but we need our freshmen to become contributors.”
Whitman features a trio of captains in forward Lucas Karron and defensemen Dustin Gray and J.M. Hellman.
They’ll have to keep the Vikings on task this year while replacing several key contributors, but coach Tom Sneddon believes they’re up to the task.
Goalie Zach Butler has possibly the biggest skates to fill as he steps in for first-team All-State goalie Matt Bruns.
“This year, there are a lot of names that have been on our roster that haven’t really gotten attention in the past,” Sneddon said. “If we have a good year, you’ll notice them. ... I expect to be in the thick of things and I think they can do it. We have the talent and desire.”
Some teams that may be surprises are James H. Blake, which has an up-and-coming roster, and Sherwood.
The Warriors, which are no longer competing as the Arrows, looked ahead of schedule to coach Chris Leonard during their first scrimmage.
“For the most part, it’s going to come down to team defense,” Leonard said. “Last year we had games where we might have been in it for a while, but then gave up three or four goals in a matter of minutes and the game’s out of hand. I think we can improve on that this year, but only time will tell on that one.”
Georgetown Prep and Landon are expected to be amongst the top private school teams in the Interstate Athletic Conference and Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League.
Paul Fritz, who is entering his first season as the Little Hoyas coach, has the team’s first and third leading scorers back in Kyle Chadwick and Jack Olson.