Manning the nets in ice hockey requires instinctive reflexes, a dogged determination and a calm frame of mind. Though only a sophomore, Jimmy Sweeney of Council Rock South has certainly demonstrated a good degree of all these essentials.
A slight batch of sibling rivalry drew Jimmy to the ice arena. “I’ve been a playing since I was eight years old. My little brother started playing and I got jealous and started to want to play.”
That innocent beginning turned into a genuine passion for the game. “I love playing the game. Depending on how you play you can relieve stress. You also make more friends.”
Jimmy soon gravitated to the defensive end of the ice. “I played soccer before I played hockey and I was the goalie in soccer. I tried out playing as a regular player in hockey but I didn’t like it so I thought I liked goalie in soccer so maybe I’d like it in hockey. I ended up really loving it.”
The reason was basic. Jimmy liked the pressure that comes with being the last stop on defense. “I probably like making big saves the best… those game saving saves.”
This season, his first year on the varsity squad, Jimmy demonstrated a real proficiency for playing between the pipes. He turned away 229 of 261 shots for an .872 save percentage and a 3.84 goals-against average.
To chalk up such impressive statistics indicates the maturity Jimmy brings to his demanding position. “The key to being a good goalie is having a good work ethic. If you’re not doing well you still have to stay positive. You have to keep you’re head in the game no matter what the score is. You have to try to make the next save so you build up more confidence.”
You also have to stay riveted on the flow of action, especially as it moves toward the goal. “I focus on how many people are coming down at once. I read and react to the shot so I follow it with my glove and with my blocker. You have to use your eyes and see where it is. You have to have good reflexes to see where the puck is going.”
Keeping a clear field of vision is not always easy as defenders and attackers move in front of the goal at a hectic pace. “I talk a lot when I’m playing to keep my teammates moving and to keep my head in the game. I try to let my teammates know where the attackers are. If they are getting in front of the net my teammates move them out of the way so I can see. I try to let them know if the other team has someone coming out of the box.”
The entire process can result in a pretty draining time on the ice. “At the end of the game I’m pretty tired. I consider it positive or not depending on how I played and how my teammates played. If everyone works as hard as they could then I’m happy with the game.”
Jimmy maintains a sound perspective on his performance. He willingly wants to improve. “Sometimes I’m not happy with how I played if I let in some pretty bad goals. A bad goal is when I misjudge the play or end up on my butt part. I consider every five-hole goal a pretty bad goal. That is when the puck goes between my legs.”
Jimmy’s efforts helped the Golden Hawks make both the Suburban One League Ice Hockey League playoffs and the recent Flyers Cup. “We’re very good and very young at the same time. Everyone plays very well together. I thought we were a good playoff team.”
In both series South found themselves pitted against the number one seeded team. They took on central Bucks South in the opening round of the SOLHL’s. Jimmy was ready for the challenge, recording 28 saves. “I felt I played well. There was one goal I would have wanted to have back and that was the first goal. I went down and I should have stayed up on the shot. I didn’t follow it with my glove. Their other shots were very good.”
Despite losing to South 3-1 the Golden Hawks were ready to take on Downington East in the opening of the 2019 Flyers Cup. Again, they played a solid game against a front running opponent. “That was a very good game for our team. After the first two periods we were down 2-1. We ended up losing 4-1 but we stayed in it until the very end. We had 14 shots and they had 46 or 47. They kept peppering shots at us. Anytime they got a chance they’d shoot the puck but we would go down and try to set it up.”
Though bowing out of the Flyers Cup early, Council Rock South gave every indication they should be tough in the years to come. One thing is certain…they have a most capable athlete in goal.