Players look to freshman talent for success this season
The Blair Community ice hockey team is not affiliated with or sponsored by the Montgomery Blair High School athletic program or Montgomery County Public Schools. The team is an independent group of Blair students.
As the cold weather kicks into gear, winter sports teams are starting up again, which can only mean one thing: hockey season. The Community Blair Ice Hockey team will kick off their season tonight as they face the Magruder Colonels in a season opener at 7 p.m. at the Outdoor Wheaton Regional Ice Rink.
After a rough season last year resulting in a 1-9-1 record, the Blair Ice Hockey team is only looking to improve. Senior goalie Robert Ginsberg feels that despite their shaky season last year, they still have a lot of shoes to fill this season. "We are really going to miss the extra presence on the ice and general senior leadership," he says.
Former captain Lee Shields, who currently plays on the Appalachian State hockey team, will also be sorely missed, says Ginsberg. Although the Blazer hockey team will undoubtedly suffer from this loss, the team has gained several new players to replace him, including freshmen Jens Josephs and Logan Schwebel. Both freshman have prior experience and are expected to contribute a lot to the team this year, according to senior Marty Viger, a senior on the team this year. "Jens is not even taller than my waist but he's extremely fast," Viger says.
Viger, who is also expected to be a strong presence on the ice, will be unable to play for the first two games of the season due to penalties from a fight during the final game of the last season. "When you get in a fight, you get kicked out for the game you're playing and the next game, too," he says. "[The referees] gave me the wrong penalty so I had third-man in, instigating and fighting so that's 3 different offences, which got me suspended for five games. Fortunately, there was a miscommunication so I only ended up being suspended for three games."
Teammates comment that Viger's presence on the team will be notably missed during the first two games, but Ginsberg remains optimistic about Viger's absence. "Marty will be a strong presence when he gets back, but until then we're going to have to make due without him."
Ginsberg proved to be another of the team's strongest players, with over 40 saves during a given game last year.
Junior Alex Sandberg-Bernard has been dubbed another key player who has already shown improvement through preseason scrimmages is junior. In the final scrimmage, he scored three goals with an additional assist, resulting in a 4-1 victory. In the same scrimmage, Sandberg-Bernard was illegally checked during the game and was sent to the hospital with a bruised knee cap. He will be able to return for the first game. Sandberg-Bernard, Joseph, and senior Lenny Slenkovich will be the main offensive contenders for Blair, who hope to improve the team's lackluster offense.
Ginsberg hopes the team will add more to Blair's scoreboard this year. "One of our teams Achilles heel's is goal production," he says. "Alex has been doing really well in that category this year. He has always been a good player, but he's gotten a bit bigger and improved his shot. Jens is helping him in the offense and they are working really well together. They have great chemistry on the ice."
Due to their less-than-impressive outing last year, the Blazers have been given a less rigorous schedule this season, which increases their chances for a more successful year. "Last year we had a really tough schedule and we just got pounded," says Sandberg-Bernard. Ginsberg has similar expectations for the season. "Looking at the schedule we have and skill of the new freshman, we have a chance of going 500. Our goal is to make the play-offs."
The team hopes that their improved offensive skills, solid goalkeeping and key defenders such as seniors Scott Lavon and Viger will help to improve their record and possibly even give them a chance to qualify for the playoffs.
Along the road, the Blazers will face competitors like the evenly matched Blake, Springbrook and the Washington International School. The players look to their large fan-base to pump them up for these games. "Our fans are awesome—it's so much fun. If you score a goal or get a big hit, everyone goes crazy," remarks Sandberg-Bernard. The fans will also be needed for the Blazer's most difficult game against Walter Johnson later in the season.
Overall, this year's team is very optimistic about the upcoming season. "Everyone is a little older, a little bigger, and we are playing more teams that are on our level." says Ginsberg.
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