Prep hockey: Judge starts title defense on roll
The Judge Memorial ice hockey program was in a rough spot four years ago.
After the Bulldogs finished last in the Utah High School Hockey league, Todd Brown became the coach and inherited a roster that lacked depth. But the program began to develop under Brown's watch, thanks in large part to a group of nine freshmen who joined the squad after Brown's first year. The Bulldogs reached the highest of heights last year when they won the state championship.
Brown left after the title victory in February, and former assistant Tony Musci took over the reins.
Judge has picked up where it left off in the spring by starting the season 5-0 and outscoring opponents 32-6.
The Bulldogs' offense has been bolstered by the arrival of senior forward Nick O'Cain, who transferred from East High. O'Cain and fellow senior Sam Taylor have combined for 18 goals and 14 assists to spark the strong start.
"Nick and I click very well together," Taylor said. "I know his weaknesses, he knows mine. We put them together and figure out how we can work with each other. We find each other on the ice."
Despite their goal-scoring prowess, Taylor and O'Cain are quick to point out that it's the Bulldogs' defense that has allowed the team to start undefeated.
"We have three shutouts, which shows that it's not just our offense producing, it's our defense producing as well," O'Cain said. "No other team has three shutouts but us. It just shows that defensive play plus goaltending can really pull you through a long way."
To that end, Musci gives particular credit to defensemen Jack Keller, Kane Dobson and James Jensen. The Bulldogs also boast a trio of goalies, but Robbie Brennan is following a stellar freshman year with a solid sophomore campaign.
"We're strong up and down the ice," Musci said. "That's served us well. We've continued to work on some of the things that we've been teaching the kids over the past few years. We're starting to develop more as a team, starting to play better as a team. We have solid goaltending. We're a tough matchup."
Musci recognizes the challenges ahead in the chase to repeat as champions.
"I think there are a lot of good teams out there this year. We're just one of them," said Musci, who works as a physician away from being the volunteer coach at Judge. "We're not by any means top dog, so it'll be an exciting run to the playoffs. We're looking forward to that."