By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Every season, a handful of schools have trouble fielding an ice hockey team. Even many of those that can produce rosters consistently take years to achieve success.
Then there's Jewish Day School, a first-year program entering today's Maryland Scholastic Hockey League quarterfinals with 21 players and a 10-0-1 record. The Lions' latest win came Tuesday, when they claimed the Capital division of the MSHL with a 3-2 victory in a shootout against Landon II.
"We exceeded expectations in about our third game," Lions Coach Jason Kersner said with a laugh. "I don't think anybody really knew what to expect. They were just excited to have their own team and to play for their own school. I certainly didn't have expectations this high."
In previous years, several Jewish Day School players were scattered on various provisional teams, which are composed of students from two or more schools.
Over the summer, JDS officials decided to form their own team and they hired Kersner, an alumnus and the coach of Team Maryland's 18-and-under team.
When practice started, he discovered plenty of players -- and plenty of talent.
"We have great senior leadership," he said, referring specifically to Adam Goodman (16 goals, eight assists), Eyal Breit (nine goals, seven assists) and Daniel Kaprow (five goals, seven assists). "We kind of let those guys run the team. We don't have to do much."
The Lions were placed in a league with the second teams from schools deep enough to field two squads, such as Landon, DeMatha, Mount St. Joseph and Churchill -- and it soon became apparent that JDS would be successful.
"A lot of us played together or against each other in various leagues," said Goodman, who led Northwest/Germantown in points last season. "We knew each other's abilities and we knew what we wanted to do with the puck."
Since tying Mount St. Joseph II on Dec. 2, the Lions have won eight games in a row. They face Linganore today with a state semifinal berth on the line.'Underachieving' Gonzaga
Assessing his team as it enters tomorrow's regular season finale against Good Counsel, Gonzaga Coach Nate Jackson spoke with a sense of bafflement.
"We're still one of the stronger teams in the league and I think a lot of the coaches realize that," he said. "We're underachieving this year to say the least."
On some nights, such as when they beat Mount St. Joseph by four, or the two times they defeated Georgetown Prep, the sixth-ranked Eagles have looked like a complete championship contender. Other nights, like when they lost to O'Connell or Spalding, the Eagles have looked disjointed and offensively challenged.
Gonzaga won the final three MSHL private league championships from 2005 to 2007, but faltered in the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey league playoffs last season. Starting next week, the Eagles must put together three solid games in a row to make a run in this postseason. . . .
Archbishop Spalding and Bryn Mawr play today for the right to face Holton-Arms next Friday in the MSHL girls' championship game. Holton-Arms has won the past five titles.