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More on Westfield’s 3-0 start to the NVSHL season

Perhaps sophomore forward Tim Pierce might provide a good starting point when trying to explain the Westfield hockey team’s 3-0 start to the season.

As a freshman last winter, Pierce took his first shift weighing about 90 pounds -- with equipment. A year later, Pierce has nearly doubled his weight and is now a mainstay on one of the Ice Dogs’ top two lines, typically parking himself in front of the net and providing Westfield with a physical, Mike Knuble-like presence.

“He filled out quickly and has really come into his mold this year,” Westfield Coach Bucky Gallagher said. “He’s the kind of guy we put in front of the net on the power play or use to match against a first line, muck it up and protect the puck.”

Pierce’s emergence has coincided with that of his team, which I had a short note about in today's prep hockey notebook and rankings. While always competitive, Westfield has rarely been considered as a squad capable of unseating Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League powers Stone Bridge, O’Connell, Langley, Forest Park and Woodbridge.

Until now.

This year the Ice Dogs have quality wins over W.T. Woodson, Chantilly and Fairfax/Potomac. Not only that, Gallagher has been encouraged by an influx of travel players on his team and the fact that five freshmen are seeing significant ice time.

“We’re kind of excited about the team we have this year,” Gallagher said. “This is the first time in our 10-year history that we’ve had three solid lines. We’ve always had to mix things up and spread the talent out.”

Right in the middle of everything has been Pierce, who’s tied for the team lead in goals with senior assistant captain Connor McCeney -- each has four.

The ability to preventing has also been crucial. Michael Houde is entrenched as the team’s No. 1 option in net, but Gallagher also has two capable freshmen, including Patrick Anderson, who was in net for the team’s most recent victory -- a 3-1 win over previously unbeaten Fairfax/Potomac (Va.) on Dec. 11.

Westfield stunned Langley in first round of the NVSHL playoffs last winter before suffering a 4-1 defeat to Herndon in the quarterfinal round, and I asked Gallagher on Thursday morning what might have changed between last season -- when the Ice Dogs were 5-3-2 during the regular season -- and this one.

The answer was simple: nothing.

Sure, assistant coaches Bill Fleming and Mike Midgley have assumed more responsibility, senior captain Brett Barber has provided excellent leadership and Min Yoon, with three goals, has provided an additional scoring touch. But Westfield has kept its style of play the same and as simple as possible.

“Our coaching philosophy or club philosophy hasn’t changed,” said Gallagher, whose team will be off for almost a month after the Madison game before a rematch with Herndon on Jan. 15. “We still run the same game plan, the same system. I don’t believe in a lot of systems. I want to keep to the basics of what we do. I don’t care what level it is, youth house, travel, NCAA, NHL … they keep it as simple as they can."

By Jason Mackey  |  December 18, 2009; 8:25 AM ET
Categories:  NVSHL , Westfield  
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