By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
With a successful 8-2 conference record heading into the Capital Scholastic Hockey League championship game, the T.C. Williams High School hockey team’s third season ended on March 1 with a narrow 4-3 loss to Washington-Lee High School.
After winning the CSHL last year, the Titans began this season strong, with a nine-game winning streak. T.C. Williams had three of the top 15 regular season scorers in the league on its roster: Owen Grainger with seven goals, Aidan Thorp-O’Brien with 11 goals and league leader Jason Townsend with 16 goals. Townsend was also named the CSHL’s Player of the Year on Feb. 28.
Going into the championship game, the Titans were ranked seventh in the DMV area according to the Washington Post. Including non-conference games, their overall record was 11- 2. Washington-Lee, which beat T.C. Williams earlier in the season, was right behind the Titans with a conference record of 7-2, an overall record of 9-2-1 and the eighth slot in the Post rankings.
The championship game was a dramatic contest between the two best teams in the league. Washington-Lee led 2-1 after two periods and the Generals stretched their lead to 4-1 with a little under seven minutes left in the game. However, the Titans fought back with two third period goals, the second coming with 38 seconds left in the game, to climb within one goal. That’s as close as they would get.
“We were down four to one with I think three minutes left and we started a little comeback, but it just fell short,” Assistant Coach Mike Grainger said. “We just ran out of time.”
While T.C. Williams fell just short of a second straight league championship, Grainger said he isn’t too disappointed.
“We had a good season,” James Townsend, captain and senior defensive player, said. “We met almost all our expectations and I see improvement especially through a lot of the younger players this season. They started working more as a team and with the rest of the team, which I think is really good for next year and the years coming for T.C.”
Coming off a championship-winning season, the Titans knew they couldn’t rest on their laurels. The team’s nine-game winning streak is a testament to the players’ discipline and work ethic on the ice, Grainger said.
“It’s a team that doesn’t give up,” Grainger said. “We were behind in quite a few games going back to last year. … And the same during this year. They’re just a group of guys that don’t give up, and that’s a special thing especially in hockey.”
Without funding from T.C. Williams or the school board, Grainger said he is especially proud of the Titans’ performance. The team has had to self-fund, getting by with money from players and their parents. The team doesn’t even practice because of how expensive ice time can be.
“Our guys, they practice with their clubs and they show up for the games, we create lines, we put them out and we go with that,” Grainger said. “We kind of wing it.”
Grainger hopes the team’s short but successful record will bring more awareness to the team and, with it, some funding.
“We’re hoping that the fact that we’ve been doing quite well will get people to take notice,” Grainger said.
Coming out of the 2018- 2019 season, the team lost more than a championship; it also lost five senior players. Reflecting on his years of playing on the team, Townsend said he feels like he’s leaving T.C. Williams as a better player.
“To see what I’m doing now versus when I started, and I could barely skate forwards or backwards,” Townsend said. “Now I was captain of a team that was playing in the championship game and we were ranked top 10 in DMV for almost every single week this year.”
Moving forward, Grainger is confident the younger class of Titans will step onto the ice motivated by a championship loss and ready to take command.
“There’s a lot of young guys who will step up next year, who want that experience of winning the championship that the other guys had the year before,” Grainger said. “Hopefully there’ll be some fire there to get it done next year.”