Throughout the winter, players and coaches of the Southern Maryland Sabres 16U Gold team have been among the exception to the rule when it comes to the 14 teams within the organization.
In December, Southern Maryland Sabres players and coaches found out that they had to choose between practicing at the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf or playing games elsewhere. Players and coaches of the Sabres 16U Gold team opted to play games, with the St. James Complex in Springfield, Va., becoming like a second home.
“The St. James Complex has been very accommodating with their ice time,” said Southern Maryland Sabres 16U Gold coach Derek Murphy. “We’ve been able to get in games over there on the weekends. Now we’re in a position to make the playoffs. Of course, if my guys win a championship then I don’t know if I will ever be able to get them back to practice.”
Like many of the other teams within the organization, the Southern Maryland Sabres 16U Gold team is comprised of players from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties and even one from Prince George’s County. The Sabres have thrived under their limited conditions, considering that most teams in the area can play and practice.
“It sucks that we can’t play at our home rink,” said Sabres’ defenseman Dylan Kuhstoss, a Northern High School sophomore. “But it’s great that we get to play at St. James. It’s a very nice rink. We really have great chemistry on this team. We have guys from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s County and another from Fort Washington, but we’re like one big family once we get on the ice.”
Leonardtown High School junior Tyler Bates, another defenseman on the Sabres’ 16U Gold team, also admitted the quality of the rink at St. James offsets the long commute from St. Mary’s County to Springfield. Last Saturday the Sabres were upended by the Richmond Select, but then rebounded to topple St. James on Sunday.
“It’s a long trip, but it’s a real nice rink,” said Bates, who also plays baseball at Leonardtown. “We probably play better when we practice, but I’m okay not having practice twice a week. We have a good group of guys on this team. Some of us have been playing together for 11 years now.”
Kohstoss admitted that his initial experience on the ice was not very favorable, but he stayed with the sport and now boasts the same passion that kept his father, Eric Kohstoss, playing through high school and much later in adult leagues throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
“When I first starting playing hockey, I really didn’t like it,” Kohstoss said. “But I finally got the hang of it when I was six or seven and I’ve been playing ever since. I love playing and I like watching hockey. It’s great that we have the chance to play games on weekends. I would like to be able to play in our home rink, but it’s great having St. James available.”