Calvert Hall's Ryan Woodward thinks the takeover and makeover of a struggling ice hockey program could be an easier situation than the one he's inheriting. "It's easier to pick up a mess and clean it up," Woodward said.
Calvert Hall's ice hockey program is far from a mess.
The Cardinals are considered the premier program in the Baltimore area and big things are expected after last season's accomplishments. They defeated Archbishop Spalding in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game and lost in the Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey final to Gonzaga while going 20-3-2.
"The first time I met the players and went around the room, I asked them, 'What are they looking for this season?" Woodward said. "They all said they are looking for a (MAPHL) state championship.' "
Woodward wouldn't want it any other way. There's a recognition, however, that he's following a tough act.
Woodward, who coached high school and college hockey in Rhode Island, is replacing Mike Shramek, who resigned last summer to spend more time with his family. He won 166 games, four MIAA championships and a Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League title during his 13 years as coach.
"Mike did a phenomenal job at building the program," Woodward said. "It's huge shoes to fill and that's an understatement. There is a lot of pressure to keep it going. But I was just blown away by the opportunity. I know the reputation the program has is second to none. It was a no-brainer for me to take the job."
Woodward's roster appears to have the talent needed to keep the winning tradition going.
The Cardinals, who practice and play at Mount Pleasant Ice Rink, return 12 players from last year's squad, including seniors Ivan Yuryev, Ryan Dieter, Matt Curtin, Patrick Reagan, Timmy Blount, Mike Finn, Jack Finn, Corbin Hall, Trey Gauss and Jack Sabourne, as well as sophomores Ryan Camille and Nick Shivone.
"We bring back quite a few leaders from last year," said Woodward, 32, who works in technology sales for Cisco in Columbia. "We have a great core of seniors to continue to carry the torch from previous seasons and we have some good young talent to add to the group. It will take a little while for us to jell."
Woodward's hockey resume impressed Calvert Hall athletic director Lou Eckerl, who interviewed six candidates for the position. Woodward served as an assistant coach for eight years at Providence's Moses Brown School, where the Quakers won a state championship in 2012.
He also worked for two seasons as an assistant women's coach at Division III Connecticut College. He played club ice hockey at the same school for four years and earned the college's club athlete of the year award.
Now, he plays pickup hockey in a men's league in Reiserstown.
"His knowledge of the game and his background is exactly what we were looking for," Eckerl said. "He has a real passion for the game. You can see it as you talk to him. He is very positive, uplifting and enthusiastic. I have attended practices and seen how he interacts with the kids. It's wonderful."
Woodward accepted the position in late September and immediately met with the players.