The McLean High School club hockey team is really young heading into the 2009-2010 season.
How young? Well, of the 21 students on the team, 15 of them are either freshmen or sophomores.
All of that youth will pose challenges for the Highlanders.
Last season, the squad had five players graduate, and before that, the team lost eight seniors. All of this turnover resulted in a 4-5-1 record last season, and interesting prospects for the 2009-2010 season.
“We were hurt last year by losing a core group,” said McLean head coach John Sherlock, who has been at the helm of the team for its entire nine year history. “This year, we’re almost starting over again.”
What the team lacks in experience, it makes up well in depth. One key this season is that with so many pieces, Sherlock will be able to better fit players into their proper positions, as fell as field a third line, a luxury not all teams have.
“Last year, skating a third line was not an option,” said Sherlock. “We have some more depth than last year’s team. The downside is it’s all young.
“From a coaching perspective, this is a better team,” the coach added. “The pieces fit together better.”
As an example of the team’s inexperience is that only six players have any travel experience – more ice time usually makes for more prepared players.
“This is a more challenging team to coach in some ways,” said Sherlock.
The coach is looking to sophomore defender Nick Baker, who has been named a team captain, to set the tone for the squad. Junior forward Matt Stewart and sophomore Maury Winter are also expected to take leadership roles.
Sophomores Michael Gayle and Julian Kell and freshman Remi Paine will man the defensive effort this season.
Offensively, key players will be junior forwards Tommy Borman and Matt Stewart and Martin Alm will man the goal.
After a number of scrimmages that date back to October, the McLean Highlanders finished with three wins and four losses.
The squad played its first official match of the season on Nov. 20, defeating Potomac Falls High 4-1 at home at Skatequest in Reston.
Senior Mason Richardson scored two goals for McLean, and Stewart and Connor Gilmartin each added a goal in victory. Alm was fantastic in his first start, stopping 21 shots.
Despite the young team, Sherlock sees a manageable schedule.
“Our schedule is not an overwhelming schedule,” the coach said.
“We have some optimism about this year being OK.”
The Highlanders next face Langley at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4 at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex at Ballston Common Mall.