Records weren’t the all-defining measure of accomplishment for the Severna Park Ospreys middle-school ice hockey team this winter. The team didn’t practice and only convened for games about once a week.
Not surprisingly, the low-pressure approach to the team resulted in a successful winter of fun on the ice.
“I try to keep this fun for the players,” said Ospreys coach and self-proclaimed “chief bottle washer” Greg McConnell. “Players get enough pressure at their regular clubs, so we try to make middle school hockey as a low-key, fun time — basically organized pond hockey.”
Competing in a loosely organized league against teams from Broadneck, Chesapeake, Central and Crofton, the co-ed Ospreys went 3-7. The team of Jagan Som, Quinny McConnell, Beckett Dickson, Aidan McIntyre, Ryan Phelan, Luke Cobb, Mikaila Daly, Elizabeth Jones, Dillon McConnell, Sam Gillespie, Pierce Brenner, Declan Laughlin, Daniel Jelinek, Mitch Gaudet, Nicholas Calce, Evan Reaser, Kristina Jones, Thomas Osborne, Alex Elfenbein, Jack Clark, Kyle Gruppuso, Sam Testerman, Taylor Gruppuso, Finnegan Pasko and Maxwell Grotheer were in control of their own lines and playing time.
Taylor Gruppuso, Daly, Cobb, McConnell, Testerman, Phelan, Gillespie and Som were eighth-graders who finished their middle school hockey careers.
Coach McConnell said middle school hockey is growing, but the hope is to keep it low-cost, low-pressure and focused on fun. The Ospreys managed to do just that this winter with volunteer efforts from coaches and families and minimal expenses to rent ice time and pay referees. McConnell noted the volunteer efforts of Broadneck coach Bob Lime, who coordinated the league’s scheduling, ice time and referees. He likewise praised Osprey parents Adam and Kate Gillespie, who were the “go-to parents to run the clock, keep the score sheet and play music, which was appreciated by all, especially the dancing parents who could often be seen grooving to the music in the stands.”
Above all, he was glad to see the players keep the atmosphere light and inclusive.
“We generally let players choose their position and their lines,” said McConnell. “Although we have three grade levels and varying playing abilities and experiences, we strive for equitable ice time. We don’t shorten the bench for power plays or when we are short-handed. We don’t try to match lines against other teams, and most teams and players that we play against respect that approach… They did a great job of switching up the lines and tried to keep the ice time fair for all…At the end of games, if we have ice time left, we hold a shootout so that everyone gets a chance at scoring. Even the goalies get to pick up a regular stick and try to score …There are a few ringers in the league that could run up the score, but most of the time, these players are sharing the puck, the ice and the fun.”