Georgetown Prep ended 2011 with the lingering taste of a pair of losses in consecutive days at the National Capital Hockey Tournament.
Admittedly, the Little Hoyas did not have their best showing at Gonzaga’s annual event, nicknamed the Purple Puck Tournament. They were without several players and had difficulty adapting to the two 25-minute half format of the event. Prep still managed to advance to the final, losing to the Purple Eagles for the second time in two days, but the team returned from break ready to turn the page to 2012.
(Hockey rankings can be found here.)
Prep has not lost since, posting a pristine 7-0 record and rolling into Friday’s critical matchup with IAC rival Landon full of momentum.
“Our guys are working better as a unit, skating as one team with a common goal,” Prep Coach Sean O’Leary said. “We’re using our entire lineup from top to bottom and it’s paying off for us.”
As has been the case in recent years for the fourth-ranked Little Hoyas (13-3), that strong play builds from the back where senior goaltender P.J. McNamara has been lights out in recent weeks. McNamara has upped his save percentage to .913 as Prep has held its last seven opponents to eight goals total.
The defense took a serious hit last week when senior captain Mike McDonald suffered a shoulder injury that could keep him out of the lineup until the MAPHL playoffs, but in his stead, sophomore Matt Billings, freshman Jack Olson and others have stepped up.
Up front, senior center A.J. Taylor (19 goals, 19 assists) and junior center Kyle Chadwick (26, 14) lead an explosive top line, while consistent support from team’s second and third lines has fortified the attack.
“We’re relying heavily on P.J. in net, and that’s no secret,” O’Leary said. “But it’s the other guys who have really pushed our team to the level we’re playing at right now.”
The combination of veteran experience and what O’Leary calls “young enthusiasm” has the Little Hoyas playing their best hockey just in time to face defending IAC and MAPHL champions Landon on Friday night.
The top-ranked Bears (15-1) lost to the Hill School (Pa.) on Saturday — their first defeat since Feb. 24, 2010 — but rebounded with a 5-0 shutout of Churchill. And the Little Hoyas know they’ll need to come up with their best game of the season to pull the upset.
“We don’t match up with them on paper, but we don’t match up with a lot of teams on paper,” O’Leary said. “We’ve just got to continue to rely on our goaltending, pick our spots to attack them and take advantage of our opportunities when they come.
“It’s the top two teams in the IAC playing for the regular season title. It couldn’t get much better than that.”