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In search of respect, Northstars light up ice

March 03, 2011|By WILL ROBINSON | Staff Correspondent
  • The Washington County Northstars are the 2010-11 champions of the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Co-Op Division. They defeated Leonardtown 6-3 on Monday night to win the title.
Submitted photo

With local basketball teams making their way through the playoffs, along with wrestling season in full swing, many Washington County sports fans might not have paid much attention to the Washington County Northstars hockey team.

But for those who faithfully followed the boys in black and red, the 2010-11 season was like something out of a Disney movie.

The Northstars were somewhere between the Mighty Ducks and the U.S. Olympic team from “Miracle.” They were a bunch of guys who came together for the love of hockey, and under the leadership of coach Jamie Blackwood, they came away with the 2010-11 Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Co-Op Division championship.

And they didn’t just win the title, they obliterated the competition. These kids knew they were good and they played like it, defeating their playoff opponents by a combined score of 17-7 before defeating Leonardtown 6-3 in the championship game Monday, capping a 13-1-2 season.

For the Northstars’ seniors, it was the culmination of their careers. Three of them — captain Zach Kimmel, assistant captain Kevin McCormack and Jessie Patterson — were here since they were freshmen, when the Northstars went 13-0-1 in their inaugural season in 2007-08. Back then they were just a provisional team, but that season set the tone for the years to come.

“We’ve all been on the team since the first year. From provisional to now, we saw everything,” said McCormack. “Now we’re where we are now — champions.”

Patterson still has wide-eyed wonder about the medal hanging around his neck.

“It was so crazy (winning the title),” said Patterson. “Freshman year was my first year playing hockey, and we went undefeated. These four years have been incredible.”

In the 2009-10 season the MSHL’s provisional divison was renamed the Co-Op Division and was given a playoff and a championship. That year Washington County just missed the championship game, falling to eventual runner-up Northern 7-5. That loss only seemed to fuel the Northstars’ drive to win this season.

Washington County was a force to be reckoned with, averaging six goals per game while senior goalkeeper Mikhail Gardner finished with a scant 1.67 goals-against average and recorded three shutouts.

“I’m pretty glad for my senior season, I’m glad we could finally (win a championship),” said Gardner. “I just couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”

Blackwood believes the championship has Washington County on the MSHL’s collective radar.

“I don’t think it brings us prestige so much that it brings us respect,” said Blackwood. “Hockey is mostly centered around the city and the urban areas of Maryland. Now that we’ve won a title, I think that’s put us on the map.”

Though the Northstars are still contending for exposure in their own community, where football, basketball and baseball get most of the spotlight, Blackwood hopes that a championship will bring more interest into the program.

“In our community that is still rooted in the top three sports, we’re sort of an outsider,” Blackwood said. “I hope the title does get us attention, but it’s also going to take media coverage and fan support. We’re a small-market team, so it’s still going to be a slow grind to get where we need to be.”

This brings up the argument for hockey in Washington County schools. This season, Washington County defeated six Varsity Division teams, including state runner-up Urbana.

“We’ve had discussions about it with the school systems,” said Blackwood. “I can’t speak for the schools, and they may not be financially able to do so, but I’d like them to at least add hockey as an official club sport. We’ve spoken to  Eric Michael (Washington County’s supervisor of athletics) about it, and we have a presentation scheduled for early to mid-spring.”

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