Game Preview: Walt Whitman vs. Winston Churchill
With more than 100 high school hockey teams in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, it seems there is a rivalry matchup every week. Three games were selected and voted on by fans on WashingtonCaps.com and the majority selected the Walt Whitman (2-1-0) vs. Winston Churchill (1-2-0) game, set to take place tonight at 9:50 p.m. at Rockville Ice Arena in Rockville, Md.
Just two points separate these two teams in the Montgomery Conference standings entering play tonight. Through three games, Whitman has tallied 14 goals while allowing 11 and Churchill has recorded 15 goals compared to 11 against.
Walt Whitman is led by senior captain Lucas Karron, who’s five points (2g-3a) this season rank him tied for fourth in conference scoring. Senior defensemen Dustin Gray (4g-1a) and JM Hellman anchor the Whitman blueline while juniors Andy Dexter (forward), Mike Voehl (defenseman) and Zach Butler (goaltender) provide Whitman with quality depth.
Winston Churchill’s senior captain Zach Arden (forward) is currently tied for the lead in conference scoring with eight points (2g-6a) while fellow senior captain Zach Satin (2g) is a two-way threat on defense. Sophomores Ross Allen (forward, 3g-2a) and Jacob Arden (defenseman) along with freshman Ian Kwant (defenseman, 3g-2a) and Alex Chen (goaltender) add to Churchill’s potent lineup.
These two schools have a history of important meetings, including Walt Whitman’s 2-1 playoff win last February, a game that ended Winston Churchill’s 2011-12 season. Churchill won both regular-season contests last year by one-goal margins before falling in the playoffs to Whitman.
“It’s a big game simply because Whitman is the reigning conference champion who knocked us out of last year’s playoffs,” says Winston Churchill head coach Ray McKenzie. “They are big and strong and physical so we will have our hands full for sure.”
“Churchill has been one of the dominant programs in our county for many years,” says Walt Whitman head coach Tom Sneddon. “Players on both sides know that the games against each other are often measuring sticks for the overall success of their season.”
Since the 2006-07 season, Winston Churchill has gone 5-2-1 against Walt Whitman in regular-season play while each team has one playoff win against their rival. Winston Churchill won the 2011 MSHL Championship, knocking off Walt Whitman in the second round of the playoffs. Since 2003-04, Churchill has captured two MSHL Championships in three appearances while Whitman finished as the runner up in 2010.
Tonight’s rivalry game will also mark the first Washington Capitals High School Game of the Week, as voted on by the fans. Capitals assistant coach and the franchise’s leader in games played, Calle Johansson, will be in attendance to drop the ceremonial first puck while John Walton and Al Koken will provide analysis and interviews with each school following the contest. Capitals mascot Slapshot, the Red Rockers and public address announcer Wes Johnson will also be in attendance at the game to help fans enjoy what promises to be an electric atmosphere.
“The involvement of the Capitals organization in this game and other games across the league demonstrates to our players that their efforts are not going unnoticed,” says Sneddon. “For the kids, it helps validate all their hard work, and connects them to the organization that their personal heroes play for. It was already a big week for us, the addition of the Capitals organization has ramped it up to new a level and the players are working very hard a practice to put on a great effort on Friday.”
“It certainly adds a layer of excitement to an already huge game,” says McKenzie. “My goal is to keep the kids focused on playing solid hockey, maintaining our discipline and winning the game, and not to allow ourselves to get distracted with all of the extracurricular activities. I compared tonight’s game with all the hype to the NHL Winter Classic, since the Classic ends up being awesome for the winners and just another loss to the losing team.”
Win or lose, both schools and the rivalry they have created are a testament to the growing interest in high school hockey around the DMV. Make sure to check WashingtonCaps.com for coverage from tonight’s Washington Capitals High School Game of the Week.