The Osbourn club hockey team began its inaugural season this year with a roster consisting of seasoned skaters. Unfortunately, most of their experience had come not on ice skates, but rather on the in-line variety.
Only a handful of the team's 24 players had played ice hockey, so Osbourn found itself starting nearly from scratch with a team composed mostly of freshmen and sophomores still learning everything from slap shots to hip checks.
"We've got all of the various levels of talent,"" Osbourn Coach Bob Balcerzak said. "Some are impact players, and some are less-experienced players. Putting it all together has been a challenge."
But the Eagles are putting it together. Last night they improved to 3-3, defeating Paul VI, 5-4, at Skate Nation in Dale City.
Senior forward Matt Dautrich gathered a loose puck along the left boards in Paul VI's zone and flipped a wrist shot into the back of the net to break a 4-4 tie with just 30 seconds remaining in the third period.
Dautrich is one of four players on the roster--which includes three players from Stonewall Jackson High School, as well as two girls--with a few seasons of ice hockey experience. Dautrich and freshman center Bryan Sobonya play for the Washington Little Capitals--a traveling club team that plays top competition from around the country. Freshman goalie Paul Balcerzak and sophomore Trey Parrish also have club experience.
"I try and help them out with different pointers," Dautrich said. "You've got to be patient. Everyone is at that level sometime."
There were moments throughout the game when Osbourn's inexperience showed, with players over-skating passes or appearing unsure skating backward. But there also were moments when the Eagles seemed to be getting the hang of the game.
With 2 minutes 6 seconds remaining in the second period, freshman Tim Morgan centered a pass from the right wing across the Paul VI goalmouth and onto the stick of Parrish, who put the puck past Knights goalie Jimmy Bearden.
Other bright spots for Osbourn included the play of Balcerzak, who tallied 11 saves while yielding only two goals. Sophomore Jeremy Whaley, who is in his first year playing goalkeeper, entered the game briefly in the third period, yielding two goals and making one save.
The Eagles may not now be long on hockey skills, but neither are they short of desire. A perfect example is sophomore JC Ehredt, who stands a little more than five feet tall and appears to weigh little more than his equipment. Ehredt scored a goal, but picked up three penalties for a variety of illegal body checks--including hitting one of Paul VI's bigger players in the back.
"He's a very rugged player for his size," Coach Balcerzak said of Ehredt. "It's nice to have that aggressiveness, but we don't want to see him pick up three penalties. We'll have to have a talk with him about that later."
Ehredt's early take on high school hockey: "The kids are twice my size. They're kind of big, and I'm pretty small."
CAPTION: Osbourn's undersized JC Ehredt, right, moves past Ross Wujkowski of Paul VI last night. Osbourn won, 5-4.