12U NoVA Ice Dogs go 17-0 in history-making season

12U NoVA Ice Dogs go 17-0 in history-making season
The 12U Red Northern Virginia Ice Dogs won the division championships after an undefeated season. (Photo/Jay Hallen)

By Caitlyn Meisner | cmeisner@alextimes.com

“Something just clicked with this team,” is the tagline of this ragtag team of 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds that went undefeated this season, with a 17-0 record. The Northern Virginia Ice Dogs have cemented themselves in regional history. 

The Red 12U boys team skated through the season undefeated despite barely knowing one another and low enrollment in the hockey club. 

The shutdown of the club’s home rink, the Mount Vernon RECenter, in early 2023 for renovations was a detriment to each age group’s retention, Head Coach Jordan Demerchant said. 

“We lost like, over half of our hockey club … 8U to 18U,” Demerchant said. “They all went to different rinks for good reasons. I understand, but it was kind of difficult for the kids that stayed because there were uncertainties. … We lost a lot of players, a lot of families because there were a lot of question marks going into last season.” 

Demerchant said his team – which consisted of 13 boys, including two of his sons – had to share the ice each week with two other teams, totaling nearly 40 kids at one time. And, since the teams are decided randomly, there’s no guarantee that skill sets or personalities will mesh. 

Kai Demerchant, one of Jordan’s sons on the team, warming up before a game. (Photo/Jordan Demerchant)

“We have some good kids, and then we have some kids that are learning the game,” Demerchant said of the start of the season. “… Everybody wants to score, everybody wants to have really cool moves and the ‘highlight reel.’” 

Demerchant also said the team did not have a dedicated goalie until one player, George, took a chance on the position. 

Despite these challenges, this team of 13 boys came out on top in the regular season and playoffs. Their first game in October 2023 was a 9-0 win against the Piedmont Predators Gold team. 

And the high of this first win took them to the very end in a 6-1 victory against the Washington, D.C. Titans Blue team in the league championship game Sunday. 

“In the locker room, all the boys are crying, ‘I don’t know why I’m crying, I’m happy,’” Demerchant recalled. 

There’s not one glaring reason that explains the team’s victorious season. Is it coaching styles? The boys’ magical chemistry? The pairs of brothers that meshed the team? The players that stepped up to fill necessary roles? Or did all of these factors work together in a clandestine way to produce the perfect outcome? 

“It is 100% a team effort,” Demerchant said. “[The coaches] tried to have … fresh legs out there and just had the best five people out there at a time.” 

Jack Hallen, an 11-year-old forward from Alexandria, said the conditioning in practices separated his team from their opponents. 

“Since we’ve conditioned, we can sprint hard throughout the game,” Hallen said. “While it might be a close game at the end of the first period, then it’s going to start separating. … We have more in the tank at the end. Then that’s where we start pounding.” 

Lydia Lutt, a mother to two boys on the team, said the players were fresh each game. 

“They played five games in 36 hours and I don’t think you could have picked out which game was the first game and which was the last,” Lydia recalled. “They almost never looked gassed. I know they felt tired, but those power skating drills paid off.” 

Demerchant said these sprints were an important life lesson for the boys in addition to a good tactic to out-skate opponents. 

“It’s long-term fun because you put in the work now, you see the benefits later,” Demerchant said. “It’s fun later; maybe you are able to win because you put in the hard work.” 

Rory and Jack Lutt, 10- and 12-year-old brothers on defense, said this season was a nice change from previous seasons where they were at the bottom of the rankings in the league. 

They said there was lots of camaraderie on the team as well, which is especially apparent with their mascot, a teammate’s water bottle named Wally. 

“Every time we won, we put a rubber band on it, and so there are a bunch of rubber bands on it [now],” Jack Lutt said. “After every game, we would take a knee, put the water bottle up, and then someone will put the rubber band on and then we all cheer.” 

Lydia Lutt said this season brought her boys and the entire team together in a way she couldn’t have imagined. 

“I don’t know what happened over the summer, but these kids got on the ice this time and they were passing to each other, they were looking up the ice for each other,” Lydia Lutt said. “This year, they were a true team.” 

Some of the Ice Dogs preparing for their next game at the championship weekend. (Photo/Jordan Demerchant)

She said her and her husband initially struggled with the decision to let their boys play on the same team, but they haven’t regretted that decision since the start of the season. 

“To see them on the ice together: they communicate, they look to each other a lot more. … They trust each other, frankly,” Lydia Lutt said. “They know they have the best intentions at heart and the right goal at heart, which is the team and the team’s victory.” 

Demerchant said he saw some of this during team bonding, especially over the tournament weekend. 

“We’re in the hotel, and the boys are hanging out … and just connecting with kids that they wouldn’t have talked to a year ago,” he recalled. “They go to battle with these guys, they sweat with these guys, they’re hanging out playing cards in the lobby.” 

Although the whole team won’t be able to remain together in the 2024-2025 season, Demerchant said any team can create something special. 

“Well, last year, we didn’t know our team,” Demerchant said. “And we came together.”