A couple of the more popular blogs over the past two years have been Q&A sit-downs with our coaches. That noted, this week’s The Week That Was is a Q&A session with Varsity Ice Hockey Coach Flip Collins.
Q: In just your second year at the helm, optimism reigns throughout the building when the topic is O’Connell ice hockey. Despite some adversity early on (injuries and the flu), the team is sporting an impressive 10-5-4 record and is ranked in The Post’s Top 10. To what do you attribute this season’s success with the playoffs looming in the near future?
We have had the ability to change our style of play based on the personnel at any given game. We have played everything from an open style high-flying attack to a stingy, trapping system that will frustrate opponents.
Q: Talk to me about this year’s strengths...and any weaknesses or concerns that you may have with the regular season winding down and the playoffs on the horizon?
This year our strength has been goaltending and a much-improved defensive core. We have yet to play a game with a full roster, and we still have two players out with injuries/sickness.
Q: Who are our top players, both below the blue line and on the offensive side, and why are they so? What does each bring to the table?
Junior Zack Hale (goalie pictured left) has been outstanding in goal. He has great size, athleticism and focus. Junior Robert Burnham (pictured #10) has had a break-through season on the blue line, bringing a silky skating stride and calmness that slows opposing attackers. Junior Daniel Avdioukhin leads the offense once again with skill and deception that drives fear into the opposition’s defense.
Q: Any surprises to date, personnel-wise?
Sophomore Jason Vogel has been the biggest surprise to date. He dedicated himself to off-season training and came into the season with new-found speed, strength and a new scoring touch. He will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Q: Talk to me about any highlights that come to mind on the season so far (team or individual, or both)?
We have had some great wins this season. Wins over DeMatha and Landon were nice for the program. However, beating defending NVSHL state champs Briar Woods in Ashburn was our biggest win so far.
Q: Are you satisfied with where we are right now...and can we be better?
I am never satisfied, and my team will tell you that. We are constantly trying to improve, develop and build for the next game or season.
Q: What are our goals this year, realistically speaking? Who are the teams to beat, and where do we fit in that mix? Top 2, Top 3?
Our goal, from day one, was to be playing hockey on Friday, Feb. 27 at Kettler. That is the NVSHL State Championship Game. By playing in that game, the rankings, records and accolades will take care of themselves.
Q: Also, talk to me a little bit about the Varsity 2 team and what it entails as opposed to a Junior Varsity team. There has been talk about sponsoring a girls team. How far along is that in the works? Should we sponsor a girls team, who would they play? Just curious, I have heard very little about girls ice hockey in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area other than maybe Georgetown Visitation.
This year we decided to have a Varsity 2 team instead of a JV. We are a complementary hockey program to travel hockey, and we encourage all of our players to maintain and play travel hockey while at O’Connell. Travel hockey is a big thing in the DMV, and we currently have 34 players at DJO which 26 of them play travel. Next year we will have over 45 travel players, and having two varsity teams helps with recruiting top talent and scheduling. Next season we will have the only all-girls varsity hockey team in the state of Virginia, coached by Brianna Murphy and fielding about 12 to 15 players. We have played two exhibition games with Georgetown Visitation (pictured above), winning both games, 4-3 and 6-4. Girls hockey is growing rapidly in the area, and there is a girls league in Maryland with six private schools participating.
Q: Anything else that you would like to add about your season, the program, or the direction that you see this going under your reign?
All of our teams are hockey focused, meaning we are committed to playing the best hockey in the area. Our varsity team arguably plays the toughest schedule of any team in the DMV. Last season we played both the MAPHL and NVSHL champions and, most likely, will do so again this season. If you are a competitive hockey player and want to develop to the next level, then playing hockey at O’Connell should be a strong consideration.
See you at the rink!
This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was.