FREDERICK — Carroll County Bears coach Paul Finch said hockey isn’t a sport, it’s a lifestyle.
Finch is in his first year as the club team’s coach and has brought a new approach to the team this season.
“The whole approach this year is we’re not going to have one superstar,” Finch said. “Hockey is played with five players on the ice and it’s played that way for a reason, so they have to play as a team. To me, the team play and the way they support each other both on and off the ice has been the greatest reward for me as a coach to watch that.”
The Carroll County Hockey Club is compromised of players from most of the county’s seven public high schools. The club, approved by the Maryland Student Hockey League, is co-educational and accommodates high school hockey players in the area whose schools do not offer a traditional high school hockey program.
The CCHC fields varsity and junior varsity teams this season.
The Bears are in third place behind Urbana and Oakdale with a 7-4 record, according to the Monocacy Valley Hockey League standings. They're set to face Urbana on Senior Night at Skate Frederick on Friday, Feb. 8.
“I’d say it’s pretty solid and we play pretty well together,” Bears defenseman Conor Finch said. “We’ve been working really well together as a team lately, just passing the puck around and getting shots and goals. We’ve really come together lately.”
Hockey is very much a family oriented sport for many of the Bears, and it’s evident in the way they play and communicate with one another, on and off the ice.
Conor Finch attended a birthday party at Skate Frederick when he was about 7 years old and Paul Finch encouraged his son to get involved in the facility’s hockey program. Paul Finch has been coaching Conor for at least six years and his sister Shannon, a senior at South Carroll, also plays.
“He’s very hard on me,” Conor Finch said. “I like it though because it makes me better, so that’s nice.”
Conor Finch said he got his sister involved in hockey and that the siblings are generally competitive with each other in everything they do.
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Hannah Tingley, a South Carroll junior, is one of three girls on the Bears’ roster. Her brothers Jake and Luke both played for the Bears and currently play hockey at their respective colleges — Jake, a sophomore, plays defense for Penn State Behrend's American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III club team, and Luke is listed on the California University of Pennsylvania’s ACHA D3 club roster.
Tingley’s father, Steve, coached the Bears as an assistant for six years and as head coach for two. Steve Tingley’s wife, Mary, is a certified Level 3 official for USA Hockey and both play hockey as well.
“Hockey is always on, it’s always talked about,” Steve Tingley said. “I come home and my brothers are like, ‘I did this move in a game,’ and there’s always something I want to try. My brothers come watch me and I go watch them, it’s a lot of fun to be surrounded by that.”
Hannah Tingley has been playing hockey since she was 6 and said it was pretty easy to pick up. Having parents as natural athletes was certainly a plus, too. She also plays for the Washington Pride’s U-19 all-girls team and said both experiences have helped her appreciate the sport even more.
“It’s important to me and it’s fun because the boys are a lot more competitive and it’s a lot more fun to play a sport when you’re surrounded by people who want to be competitive,” Tingley said. “They don’t really care that you’re a girl and they treat you just as if you’re a boy so you get the same respect.”
The Bears defeated Frederick County to capture the Monocacy Valley Championship last season before losing a heartbreaker to Montgomery Blair in the first round of the MSHL state tournament, and they’re determined to make it even farther this year.
“It’s always nice being able to play for your school but not having enough kids, it’s so great to put this team together so we can play for something, you know?” Bears defenseman Perry Goodale said. “A couple kids from each school all get together so it’s a great experience.”