Coaches and players in the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League have quickly learned to expect any type of score on any given night this season. Upsets such as the 6-2 drubbing of defending champion No. 6 Briar Woods (6-1) by No. 5 Stone Bridge (8-1), the lopsided, 12-7, win of Oakton against Langley and, most recently, the 3-0 shutout of then-undefeated Stone Bridge by the Saxons show that parity is the theme of 2014 in Northern Virginia.
“There’s a sense of unpredictability week in and week out,” Chantilly Coach Nate Van Nuys said. “I used to coach football and you’d spend hours and hours looking at game footage of the other team— but that was a benefit that going in that you knew what they were doing.
“With hockey, there’s so many questions. If you can’t physically make it out to see the game, you have to ask yourself, was a top team missing players when they lost a game?”
The lack of “one team that has blown the doors off of anybody,” Van Nuys said, makes predicting playoff results more difficult than usual.
The lack of a clear front-runner makes a deep playoff run more likely for second-place conference teams such as Chantilly (7-2) or Oakton (6-2). The Chargers lost to the Bulldogs at the beginning of December but the 4-3 decision showed Van Nuys that his team can hang with the upper echelon of league teams. Chantilly is second in the Norris division behind Stone Bridge.
The Chargers have benefited from the return of junior Ben Nicoll, who missed his freshman season with a broken collarbone and his sophomore season with a concussion. He’s the squad’s second-leading scorer with 15 goals and 13 assists. Junior forward Keegan Kelly has pulled in 22 goals and 16 assists, and Conor Kelly is a defenseman so offensive-minded that Van Nuys jokes he’d like to put a dollar in a jar every time Kelly tries to go for a risky one-on-one.
“This is the best team since I’ve been at Chantilly, at least,” Keegan Kelly said. “Everyone’s mature on our team, and we’ve learned how to play together. “
Kelly notes that the increasing strength of non-Ashburn area teams has given the field a different feel this year.
Oakton suffered a 13-3 drubbing to Briar Woods, then rebounded for back-to-back wins against Broad Run and Langley.
“On any given night, you can see any team come out on top,” said Oakton Coach John Alexa, whose Cougars gave Langley their only loss of the season to date.
Oakton lost in the first round of playoffs last season to McLean. If the Cougars can go out with the right attitude and take advantage of the skills of captain Alex Lambrides (13 goals, 13 assists) and Peter Aiello (16 goals and 11 assists), Alexa said, there’s no reason they can’t make noise in the playoffs.
The seniors on the Annapolis-Old Mill co-op team won just three games their freshman and sophomore seasons. This year, the squad that draws from both public high schools as well as Annapolis Area Christian, St. Mary’s Annapolis and the Key School is 9-0 in the Eastern conference and is tied for the second-lowest goals against in the entire Maryland Student Hockey League.
“It’s been an interesting season, just based on how successful we’ve been,” Coach Chris Hinsvark said. “We’ve always been about having a good time first, and this year it was really unexpected to go in and be as successful. It’s really came as a surprise, especially for those players that have been on a team that struggled to win any games, to now be winning all of our games.”
Senior Jonathan Klakring of Annapolis Area Christian leads the league in points (39) and goals (28). Goalie Tyler Depfer is third in the league for goals against average (1.27) and David Hitt is fifth in assists with 14 in 11 games played.
“It’s the development of our players that have been playing all for years,” Hinsvark said. “They’ve stepped up their game. We’ll graduate eight seniors and most of them have been here all four years, so we’re really top heavy, but we have some good underclassmen as well.”
The restructuring of the Maryland 1A playoffs for co-op teams will pit the winner of Annapolis-Old Mill’s conference against the representative from Mongtomery 1A, which is led by the D.C. Stars. Annapolis-Old Mill last faced them about two years ago when both teams were in a rebuilding stage, Hinsvark said.
Gonzaga beat then-No. 3 Landon, 11-0. ... Langley blanked Stone Bridge, 3-0. ... Wootton routed Richard Montgomery, 13-0. ... Churchill beat DeMatha, 4-3. The Stags had tied both Spalding and Landon in the weeks before. ... Briar Woods beat Broad Run, 6-3. ... Landon rebounded from the loss at Fort Dupont with a 7-4 win against St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes.
1. Gonzaga (19-0-1) LW: 1
2. Atholton (10-0) LW: 4
3. Wootton (10-1) LW: 5
4. Langley (6-1-1) LW: 7
5. Stone Bridge (8-1) LW: 2
6. Briar Woods (6-1) LW: 6
7. Churchill (11-2-1) LW: 9
8. Spalding (5-2-2) LW: 8
9. Landon (6-2-1) LW: 3
10. DeMatha (10-18-3) LW: 10
Records through Tuesday.