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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Icecats start state title defense with 2-0 record

Freshman+forward+Matthew+Corwin+skates+with+the+puck+as+a+Sherwood+skater+attempts+a+poke+check.+With+their+11-1+win+over+Sherwood%2C+the+Icecats+have+started+their+season+2-0.
Photo courtesy Matthew Alcorn
Freshman forward Matthew Corwin skates with the puck as a Sherwood skater attempts a poke check. With their 11-1 win over Sherwood, the Icecats have started their season 2-0.

The 2023-24 Icecats ice hockey team is one of the few WJ sports teams this year charged with the difficult task of defending a state title. Although a club team and not an official school sport, the Icecats this season carry their 2023 MSHL (Maryland State Hockey League) title in tow and face lofty expectations, weighed down further by changes in coaching and the departure of a strong senior core. While the Icecats will have to retool and readjust, they continue to play with the same grit and determination to win another title.

In the offseason, the Icecats started with an important coaching change as former head coach Malcolm Pharr departed the team after coaching the club for three seasons. Pharr was succeeded by Jared Webb, who has previously coached club hockey for the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association at the 14U level.

“Any time there is a change in coaching staff, it takes a little time for everyone to adjust. Coach Webb has been very open to learning about who we are as individuals and as a team both on and off the ice. In our practices, we’ve been focusing on conditioning, puck movement and winning battles,” junior forward and alternate captain Patrick Murphy said.

The preseason also saw the departure of star seniors Patrick Adams, Ethan Birndorf, Alex Chang, Utkarsh Srivastava and others. In total, the team lost 10 seniors from last season.

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“The team has lost a lot of really good seniors, but so have the other teams. We just have a next-man-up attitude and [have] to ask more of the current upperclassmen to carry the workload,” senior forward and team captain Brendan Klotz said.

To start the regular season, the Icecats have gone 2-0 with wins against DC Stars (a hockey team for multiple DC high schools without their own hockey teams) and Sherwood High School.

The Icecats’ 5-2 win against DC Stars featured a three-goal first period, opening with an even-strength goal from junior forward Liam Mannle. A shorthanded goal by senior forward Adam Pyott and a power play goal by freshman defenseman Ruslan Titov ended the first period 3-0. The second period saw two goals from the DC stars; however, forwards senior Gianluca Megna and sophomore Henry Horwell each contributed extra even-strength goals in the second and third periods, respectively.

In their second game of the season, the Icecats decisively beat Sherwood 11-1. The game saw eight different WJ players score goals, including Pyott who scored a hat trick, and junior forward Cameron Luskin who scored twice. In addition, sophomore defenseman Oliver Curtis scored his first goal playing for WJ in the first period, which saw six WJ goals.

“My goal really capped off a great team effort. We dominated them the entire game so it was good to see the whole team contribute to the scoring,” Curtis said.

Freshman goalie Isaac Russ also shined with nine saves on ten shots on goal for a save percentage of .900. In comparison, Sherwood skater-turned-goalie Charles Sickel saved 15 of 26 WJ shots on goal for a save percentage of .577.

The team next plays BCC’s hockey team on home ice on Friday, Oct. 27 at 9:10 p.m. at the Rockville Ice Arena.

“Our team has been preparing, both mentally and physically, to show the Barons the strength and depth of our bench. We are finetuning our power plays and penalty kill units as we expect those will be put to the test,” Murphy said.

BCC lost their sole game this season 6-3 to the 2023 MSHL runner-up Churchill High School. In the game, the Barons went 1/10 on the man advantage with just one power play goal and killed 6/8 Churchill power plays.

“BCC has always been a big rivalry game and so it just means more this week than most. I believe we’re the better team both in practice and on paper so it’s up to us to out-work them and secure the win,” Klotz said.

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Seyun Park
Seyun Park, Print Editor-in-Chief
Junior Seyun Park is in his third year of the Pitch, happy to join this year as a Print Editor-in-Chief. Outside of Pitch, Seyun plays tennis and cello, and likes to follow hockey.
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