Poolesville students participate on Upper Montgomery Lightning hockey team


Photo from Gean Family

With six schools participating on one team, including the most Poolesville students ever, the Upper Montgomery Lightning hockey team has successfully developed a friendly and winning culture. 

“We have really preached that our team is a family and we are there for each other and support each other,” head coach Todd Hassett said. 

When Hassett and assistant coach Scott Cameron took over three years ago, the team had 12 total members, including just two from Poolesville. Now, the team has 36 members from six schools: Poolesville, Seneca Valley, Damascus, Clarksburg, Gaithersburg, and Watkins Mill. Since taking over, the coaches have navigated a rebranding, added a successful junior varsity team, and opened a summer camp to encourage middle and high schoolers from across the county to participate in the Maryland Student Hockey League. 

In the Montgomery 1 division, the Lightning is the only team to feature players from a variety of schools. Their opponents, including teams from Walter Johnson, Winston Churchill, Walt Whitman, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Wootton, and Montgomery Blair, all consist of players from predominantly one school. Naturally, having players from six different schools can be challenging. 

“You don’t know people initially,” freshman Owen Robbins said. “You might have played against them, but not with them. You get to know people quickly, on and off the ice.” 

This has been helped by the summer camps, off-ice workouts, and pre-season practices offered to members of the team. Hassett also stressed the importance of communication when it came to building the team environment. 

“Technology allows our players to communicate at the click of a button and has turned [having players from six different schools] into more of a positive than a negative,” he said.

“Technology helps us connect quicker,” senior Andrew Gean said. “The freshmen have acclimated quickly. It also has helped boost the knowledge of the team to more people here in Poolesville.”

The Lightning have made big strides over the past two years, winning the county JV championship and getting the varsity team promoted to the top division in Montgomery County. Some of the players from Poolesville include Gean, junior Olivia Robbins, freshman Philip Shkeda, and senior Stephen Shkeda.

“It has been great to see people coming out to cheer from all the schools but especially Poolesville students,” Owen Robbins said.

Even though the team is collectively the Lightning, each player has a patch on the shoulder of their jersey from their school. 

“The players work hard and play with pride not only for our team, but the high school they represent,” Hassett added. “Our players from Poolesville couldn’t be more proud to have the falcon on their jersey and have done a great job representing the school.”