When Shane Corcoran was a freshman at Richard Montgomery High School, very few, if any, of his friends knew there was an ice hockey team at the school.
“It was more than should be acceptable,” said Corcoran, now a junior. “They had no clue.”
There was little reason to. The Rockets won a single game that season and rarely were competitive with their opponents. Two years later, that’s changed. Midway through the season, the Richard Montgomery co-op has a much larger following and is, most importantly, winning. Midway through the season, they are in first place in the Montgomery 1A Division.
The past struggles helped Richard Montgomery, which also has players from Rockville, and Col. Zadok Magruder, get to this point. The majority of its 12 juniors have been together since freshman year when the team lost 10 games.
“The kids have been playing together now for two years and we’ve matched up the lines with their abilities pretty well,” coach Paul Lofgren said. “We take advantage of each person’s skills to get the best lines out there.”
The improvement started last season when the Rockets went 7-4-1. But an inordinate amount of penalty minutes led to the team’s demise after a 5-0 start.
“[Last year] we had a lot of seniors that left a mark on us to be physical and take cheap shots,” said junior Lucas Flavell, a Rockville student who leads the Rockets with eight goals. “We realize we can’t play cheap to win. If we play a physical team we have to play smart and let them get the penalties.”
The Rockets are scoring in bunches this year, averaging 5.7 goals per game while allowing 3.7.
While some wins have come by wide margins — the largest were against Poolesville, 10-0, and Blake, 13-1 — they’ve still shown the ability to win close games.
Against the two teams behind it in the standings, Richard Montgomery (5-2) defeated Montgomery Blair (3-2) and the D.C. Stars (3-2) by scores of 4-3 and 2-1, respectively.
“I love those games because you take it more seriously,” Flavell said. “You play better when the games are that tight because you know you can’t mess up because if you do, you might lose and you take it a lot more seriously.”
Described by Lofgren as a finesse team, the biggest hurdle for Richard Montgomery would be facing an overly physical team, which have trapped the Rockets in the past.
Corcoran, who is fourth on the team with eight points, thinks having a few years of experience will help the team in those matchups, which will probably come during the playoffs.
“I know me and some of the kids on offense aren’t going to have a problem with that,” he said. “Kids that play on the fourth line, they might get a little hesitant. But we can hit too and we can definitely dish it out.”