Breaking the Ice

Tomball Hockey is doing what’s never been done before

Tristan+Hickman+skates+up+for+a+faceoff+in+the+second+period+of+Tomball+Hockeys+game+against+Pearland%2FFriendswood.

Adeen Rao

Tristan Hickman skates up for a faceoff in the second period of Tomball Hockey’s game against Pearland/Friendswood.

Adeen Rao, Staff Writer

Hockey hall of famer Wayne Gretzky once said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Now, a group of kids from Tomball are taking their shot at developing the first consistent hockey program in district history.

Many students are taken by surprise upon learning the team exists – “We have a hockey team?” certainly takes the top spot among commonly heard phrases when the team is brought up on campus. Make no mistake, the team is very real, and they are looking to get a district endorsement to become a full time program for Tomball ISD.

Ideas for the hockey team began summer of 2019, and the idea came to light when sophomores Joshua Matyukov and Cohen Grubb entered freshman year of high school. Alongside Grubb’s father, they realized there were quite a few hockey fans and players in the Tomball area who were willing to share their passion on the ice.

“Mr. Grubb did a lot of work to make this happen,” Matyukov said. “We are all very grateful to be able to play and we make sure we are having fun no matter the score.”

Led by Grubb, Tomball Hockey consists of coed students from Tomball Memorial with a few students from Tomball High as well, totaling 18 players. They play in the Interscholastic Hockey League (ISHL), with home games at the Willowbrook Aerodrome, and they earned their first win in the eighth game of the season, a 5-3 game against Pearland/Friendswood.

In hockey, each team has five skaters on the ice with one goalie, with the goal being to shoot a rubber puck into a 6-by-4 net. The game is played on ice skates on a 200-foot rink that features big hits, fighting, and close-up intensity, as seating in the Aerodrome is extremely close to the action.

“Hockey is a very fast paced game,” Grubb said. “There is lots of skill and even more physicality.”

The captain of the team is sophomore Thomas Nguyen, who plays a defensive oriented game, while the leading scorer is freshman Will Shimp with seven goals in 13 games. In the net, they run a tandem between Grubb and sophomore Sydney Szwed, one of the few girls on the team.

“It’s really an honor to be the first captain of Tomball Hockey,” Nguyen said. “I was really surprised that I was chosen.”

Hockey has grown immensely in northern areas of the country, but in the South, youth hockey remains scarce. This is mainly due to the fact that it rarely snows in Texas, let alone freezes over lakes. Additionally, due to interest in sports such as football, baseball and basketball, there is no incentive for indoor hockey facilities to be built at a high frequency. In fact, there is only one active professional hockey player from Houston, the Vancouver Canucks’ Tyler Myers.

For Tomball Hockey, the team’s main area for growth is depth, as they do not have enough team members to compensate for injured players, as was the case in their last game against Pearland/Friendswood.

“When we lose I always remind the team that this is our first year,” Nguyen said. “Many of us have not played together before while all the other teams have multiple years of chemistry together.”

Tomball’s next game is against Cypress Woods High School and was scheduled for Friday, but postponed due to COVID. Attendance for games is limited due to COVID regulations, but even amidst a pandemic, the hockey team has emerged and they are here to stay.