When Jack Holland joined the McLean hockey team last spring, he had to begin with the fundamentals. Making saves and executing a correct butterfly-style in goal would have to wait, as would skating from one side of the net to the other. Holland, who had never played organized hockey before last spring, had to go even more basic.
“The first day, just getting dressed was a conundrum,” Holland said. “First of all, I didn’t have any gear at all, so everything I had was borrowed or given to me. It was just a smorgasbord of different gear that wasn’t my size, didn’t fit right, wasn’t my settings. I had no idea if I was supposed to put on my skates first, my pads, my helmet or what.”
Finding themselves without a goalie at the end of last season, Holland’s teammates approached the junior varsity baseball catcher about getting onto the ice. The sophomore agreed to give it a try, played spring hockey last year and is back in goal this season for the Highlanders (2-3).
Holland works with his own personal goaltending coach at each McLean practice, freeing up Highlanders head coach John Sherlock to lead practice for the rest of his young team. The sophomore said that while little about the position has come naturally to him, his 6-foot-3 frame and his experience as a catcher have given him some advantages in goal.
“Just the understanding of having something coming at me at a rapid speed, I think that was probably pretty helpful,” Holland said. “It’s funny to me to watch people when they’re at a hockey game up against the boards, and to see a puck come shooting at them and bounce off the glass and they all jump.”
Holland’s gradual improvement is evident in the results his team has posted this season. The Highlanders opened the season with a mercy-rule 10-0 loss against Loudoun County but Holland hasn’t allowed more than four goals in a game since. Sherlock said that while Holland still lets in an occasional soft goal, his play has improved dramatically over the course of the season and that his skills as a catcher have helped him frustrate opponents with impressive glove saves.
Holland said that his teammates have been instrumental in helping him to remain upbeat as he learns the position, especially after the early season beating by the Raiders. Just a week and a half after that defeat, it was Holland who played a key role in helping McLean earn its first win of the season against the provisional team from Herndon and West Springfield. His teammates took notice.
“After the game against Herndon, where Jack had played well, I made mention of that fact talking to the players after the game,” Sherlock said. “As the words came out of my mouth, the whole room broke into applause. The kids were just 100 percent behind him and it’s been that way ever since. The kids have really made it a lot easier for him to do this, and this is a very hard thing that he’s trying to do.”
All four of the Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League teams in this week’s rankings wrapped up 2012 with holiday tournaments last weekend.
Both No. 1 Gonzaga (11-3-1) and No. 10 Georgetown Prep (5-4) played locally in the National Capital Hockey Tournament at Fort Dupont Ice Arena. Gonzaga, the tournament’s runner-up, went 3-2-1 in the tournament and fell 2-1 in the final against Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School. Georgetown Prep went 1-2 in the tournament, with its lone victory coming against Huntingtown.
No. 7 DeMatha (11-7-2) went 4-1 in its holiday tournament in Pittsburgh, winning its four games by a combined score of 26-4 before falling 6-4 to North Allegheny (Pa.) on New Year’s Eve. No. 4 Landon (7-2-1) was the runner up in the IceLine Tournament in WestChester, Pa., with its only two losses coming against tournament champion John Jay Senior (N.Y.).
Georgetown Prep moves into the rankings after beating then-10th ranked Huntingtown 5-2 in the only matchup of local teams in the National Capital Hockey Tournament. . . . Woodbridge will play its first game since Dec. 10 next Tuesday when it takes on Paul VI before hosting Briar Woods Jan. 11. . . . Atholton is one of two MSHL teams to play at least five games and allow fewer than 10 goals this season. That includes a 2-1 Howard Conference win over previously unbeaten Marriotts Ridge on Dec. 21.
1. Gonzaga (11-3-1) LW: 1
2. Stone Bridge (6-0) LW: 2
3. Atholton (5-0) LW:3
4. Landon (7-2-1) LW: 4
5. Briar Woods (5-1) LW: 5
6. Churchill (6-2) LW: 6
7. DeMatha (11-7-2) LW: 7
8. Whitman (4-2-2) LW: 8
9. Woodbridge (3-0) LW: 9
10. Georgetown Prep (5-4) LW: NR
Records are through Tuesday.