There are some very big, very tough players in the Howard Conference of the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League.
Then there is Wilde Lake junior Katie Smith.
All 5-feet-1, 95 pounds of her.
Smith's parents thought figure skating would be better suited for their daughter. But when she was in fifth grade, Smith saw her younger brother Andrew play instructional hockey and was intrigued.
"It was cool. It was something different," said Smith, who is three years older then Andrew. "I just wanted to do it."
She began playing instructional hockey in the sixth grade, and three years later joined two teams.
"I like the action," Smith said, "and I like that it's fast-paced."
Smith plays on the club team at Wilde Lake and the Tri-City Eagles, a girls-only squad that plays out of the Gardens Ice House in Laurel.
Her style of play differs depending on what team she is playing for. Although she said she doesn't fear going out on the ice against players a foot taller and weighing twice as much, she realizes her limitations when she plays against boys.
"I know on the guys team I'm more hesitant getting the puck and going for it," said Smith, who plays wing for Wilde Lake and center for Tri-City. "I'm much more likely to pass to somebody then to take it up the ice."
Is she intimidated?
"Not really. I back off sometimes, but I don't go out scared or afraid," said Smith, who added that opposing players are, for the most part, kind to her.
Smith is one of two girls on the Wilde Lake team. Laurel Winkenwerder, also a junior, is 5-3 and 120 pounds. In her eighth year of playing hockey, Winkenwerder is more talented then Smith and is willing to mix it up more with the boys.
But Winkenwerder gives Smith a lot of credit for being on the ice.
"She works hard," said Winkenwerder, who also plays on Tri-City. "She's really improved this season, and has gone to a higher level. I'm proud of her."
Smith played on Wilde Lake and Tri-City as a freshman, but decided not to play last season on the Wildecats' team. She missed it and rejoined the team this winter.
"I knew they needed players, and I regretted not playing last year," Smith said. "I like being a part of a school sport."
Smith said Wilde Lake's season was "disappointing." The Wildecats finished 1-7-1 overall (one scheduled game against Urbana was never made up), and 1-5-1 in the league. They defeated Oakland Mills, 2-0, and played River Hill to a scoreless tie in the season opener.
Wilde Lake had roughly 12 players, and there were many games when they had even less. "It was hard when not enough players showed up," Smith said.
But Smith still had fun. And that is why she played for Wilde Lake.
"The girls team [Tri-City] is a lot more serious then the other," said Smith, who said the Tri-City team has practices during the season and the Wilde Lake team does not. "If I had to pick one, it would definitely be the girls. I learn a lot more. But I like the school team because I know the people."
Smith will try to recruit players for next year's team. And when she does, some will be surprised to learn that she's a hockey player.
Their reaction, said Smith, goes like this:
"What? You play hockey? Hockey is for boys. You're too small."
Well, no she's not.
Howard (7-2-1 overall, 5-1-1 conference) and Centennial (7-3, 5-2) advanced from the Howard Conference to the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League's Tier II playoffs. Atholton (9-1, 7-0) went unbeaten in the conference, but because it has players from four schools it is not eligible for the postseason.
Howard will play Bowie at 3: 15 p.m. tomorrow at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel and Centennial will play Thomas Johnson at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Frederick rink.
Centennial earned its playoff berth and knocked River Hill out at the same time with a regular-season ending 5-4 win over the Hawks last Wednesday at the Gardens Ice House. Pat Schaeffer had a hat trick for the Eagles, including the game-winner late in the third period.
Howard ended its regular-season Thursday with a 7-2 win over Mount Hebron. Rob Ross, Erik Dickson and Jeff Riley each had two goals and Mike Lashinsky added the other for the Lions.
Dickson, an exchange student from Sweden, leads the team with 18 goals and 11 assists. Ross has 13 goals and eight assists, and goalie Ronny Spano has a 2.33 goals against average.
Here are the final regular-season standings (overall, Howard Conference): Atholton 9-1, 7-0; Howard 7-2-1, 5-1-1; Centennial 7-3, 5-2; River Hill 5-3-2, 3-2-2; Mount Hebron 6-4, 3-4; Wilde Lake 1-7-1, 1-5-1; Oakland Mills 3-7, 1-6; Glenelg 2-6-2, 1-6.
Howard Conference champion Atholton ended its season Friday with a 4-0 over Bowie. Atholton's team has players from Atholton, Hammond and one player each from Long Reach and McDonogh.
"These kids were tremendous," said Atholton coach Dennis Gottesmann. "When they needed to skate hard, they did."
Greg Hendrix led Atholton with 14 goals and 15 assists, followed by Bobby Steen (14, 12) and Kurt Carter (nine, six). The defense was led by Eli Martin, Adam Arnold, Mike Jazwiecki and Chris Hinsvark. Goalie Jason Milke had five shutouts.
Pub Date: 2/21/99