Players are optimistic despite key losses in offense
The Blair Community ice hockey team is not affiliated or sponsored by the Montgomery Blair High School athletic program or Montgomery County Public Schools. The team is an independent group of Blair students.
The Blair Community ice hockey team's 2005-2006 campaign has begun, and despite a slow start, Blair hopes to extend last year's success. Last year's star seniors, Neal Vasilak, Brad Gee, Nathan Barrymore and Graham Mathews, were sorely missed in Blair's 10-0 loss during the first game of the season against Churchill on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The Blazers suffered another, but less brutal loss to Paint Branch on Friday Dec. 2nd, when they were defeated 5-3. Blair's losses have proved that the team must make adjustments to their offense to make up for the absence of last year's seniors and current senior defenseman Jake Drengwitz.
This year's team, led by seniors Lee Shields and Jesse Mueller, juniors Robert Ginsberg and Marty Viger and sophomore Ben Kastner, is depending on its defense to win games, largely because last season's prolific scorers, Vasilak and Gee, are missing from the offense. "We're going to have to find some people to score," says Ginsberg. This year, Viger and sophomore Alex-Sandberg Bernard and Kastner are expected to step up as key offensive players.
The team is coached by Kevin McCabe, who has been leading the Blair team for approximately six years. Bill Sandberg and Pierre Viger assist McCabe. Shields, the prospective captain, and Ginsberg find the coaches to be one of the most positive aspects of the team. "Kevin's a great coach, and a pretty funny guy," says Ginsberg. McCabe, who was an All-American at Brown University and played briefly in the NHL for the Boston Bruins, has plenty of hockey experience.
The Blazers, who were 7-5 last year, are looking forward to playing rivals such as BCC, Springbrook and Blake, and also to the tougher games against Wootton and Sherwood, who have been strong teams in previous years.
With the powerhouse Churchill team behind them, the players are trying to think positively and urging fans to as well. "Our success during the season depends on the fans and how into it they get," says Mueller, who finds that more fans helps raise the morale of the team.
Despite the team's loss of offensive players and its slow start, the Blazers are confident that they can win. "We had some key losses in the offense but I think with some of our new additions and the improvement of some of our existing players, I think we can still make the playoffs this year," says Ginsberg, who saved 41 shots against the Paint Branch Panthers on Friday.
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