The second period has only just begun, but senior forward Jens Josephs' skates slice across the ice with urgent finesse. Josephs shoots down the rink, aware of the goal straight ahead and the puck dancing by his stick. He skates right up to the goal and aligns himself for a short diagonal shot. In one fluid motion, without hesitation, Josephs slams the puck into the back left of the net stretched taut behind him. Blair surges further ahead.
The journey – skate, shoot, score – is one Josephs has traveled for more than half his life. Inspired by the games he saw on television, he began to play ice hockey (always at forward) at age eight, just a year or two after learning to skate. By age nine or 10, Josephs had joined his first travel team. As a freshman, he joined the Blair team, which he loved for its loyal fans. Nowadays, Josephs plays virtually year-round; during the Blair season, when he juggles multiple teams, he practices three times and has three or four games each week.
Despite all the experience, Josephs says that preparation for each new game is difficult. "Hockey is really a game of reactions, so we have some strategies going into the game, but you never really know what's going to happen," he says. "I try to get in good positions. I try to get the puck in good positions."
Those efforts have translated into results for the Blair team this season. As an assistant captain and powerful offensive player, Josephs has been a leading scorer for the Blazers in many games. According to coach Kevin McCabe, Josephs' skating, stick handling, speed and agility on the ice are his greatest assets. "He has a very, very quick change of direction. Jens has the ability to dart in a different direction," McCabe says. "Jens doesn't get his pocket picked…He can weave his way through traffic and usually still maintain control of the puck."
Senior captain Logan Schwebel agrees. "He's not selfish with the puck," Schwebel says. "He's one of the best stick handlers I've seen in our league." In addition to his hockey skills, Josephs is also a team leader. Schwebel says that Josephs often helps him run warm-ups at practice and looks out for his teammates on and off the ice.
McCabe says that Josephs walks in and out of the locker room smiling and is an asset to team morale. "Jens is cool. He's quiet, he's affable, he's always got a smile on his face, he's always joking around," McCabe says. "I would say unequivocally that there is nobody in the locker room that harbors any dislike for Jens."
The excitement of being part of a team is what has drawn Josephs to the Blair team, where he attempts to lead his fellow Blazers by example. "I try to set a good example on the ice," he says. "That means back-checking, working hard, trying to not be selfish, pass[ing]." And the results of his team's efforts? A well-earned playoff spot – the first since 2005 – and the satisfaction of a goal fulfilled.
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