Icecats eruptive offense brings hope for states


Photo by Sanir Byanjankar

Senior and captain Ethan Birndorf picks up his stick after laying the boom on a Churchill player. The crowd’s energy was off the charts and contributed to a more physical affair.

The Icecats have opened the season in full stride. A 4-1 division record puts them at second place in their division behind 4-1 Walt Whitman, the team responsible for the Icecats’ only divisional loss. Last year’s season got cut short with a loss in the state quarterfinals and an overall stronger team this year has shown early on that their eyes are set on securing the Icecats’ first state championship. A combination of veteran varsity players and fresh high level talent make way for such expectations.

“I think the young players bring a new energy to the team and fill the roles that the team was looking for in order to improve. I’ve appreciated the older players treating us as friends and teammates; they’ve done a great job in making us feel part of the team,” freshman forward Henry Horwell said.

The Icecats’ loss against Whitman came in the second game of the season and lit a fire under the team. Following the loss, they have outscored their last three divisional opponents by a whopping margin of +19 (24-5) including a 14 goal barrage against Blair.

“Churchill and Whitman are our biggest competitors this year. We’re pretty solidified as the three best teams in the division,” junior forward and alternate captain Brendan Klotz said.

While fall sports have concluded and student demand to see the Icecats’ is high, local rinks have put a quota on the number of attendees from each school due to concerns of overcrowding and potential fan altercations. Cabin John Ice rink is set at 75 spectators per school and Rockville Ice Arena is around 120. This has prompted the team to create a list (of people who ask a player if they can come) that changes weekly on a first come, first serve basis.

“I really don’t like the quota, and I think the limitations are incredibly stifling. On the flip side, it’s important to remember why the limits are there in the first place. Montgomery County has always had an issue with rowdy fans so it’s a little bit of a ‘you had it coming’ rule,” senior forward and captain Alex Chang said.

Quota or not, the Icecats’ hosted a full house at Rockville Ice Arena facing off against Winston Churchill on Friday, Nov. 18. The crazy energy from the crowd helped propel the Icecats to a 4-1 victory in which they released a bombardment of 56 shots compared to Churchill’s 25.

“Student support is definitely one of the intangibles to the game. There’s an aspect of wanting to play well in front of all your friends and family and that kind of motivation is really important. I’m privileged enough to be able to play in front of so many people and I can’t thank everyone enough for showing up and cheering for us,” Chang said.

Their explosive offense has been highlighted by the powerhouse first line: senior captain Ethan Birndorf, senior Utkarsh Srivastava and Klotz. Birndorf and Klotz are tied as the team’s leading goal scorers with seven apiece and the line’s chemistry as a whole has been special to watch.

Along with the high level offense, the Icecats have a pair of brick walls suiting up in rotating appearances. Senior goalies Jason Conlan and Isabella Pharr are toting a save percentage of .898 allowing only 14 of the 137 shots they’ve faced to touch the back of the net.

I think our performance has allowed us to shift our focus on more of an offensive game, not only because of the great goaltending, but also because of our amazing defense. We have solid lines of defenseman who help us do our job just that much better.

— Isabella Pharr

The list of attendees is already full but on Friday, Dec. 2 the Icecats face off against rival BCC (2-1-1) at Rockville Ice Arena. The tensions, as they tend to be against BCC, will be high as the Icecats will look to continue their steamroll of the division. For live updates during the game, check @TheWjPitch on Twitter and @WjPitch on Instagram.