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Casey Johnson Named Captain of GCHS Ice Hockey Team

As team captain, junior ready to lead Gloucester Catholic onto ice

Casey Johnson was an easy choice for captain of the Gloucester Catholic High School ice hockey team. In fact, it was unanimous. Screen Shot 2021-12-07 at 10.28.42 PM

Each year during the preseason, the Rams take a vote in the locker room to decide who will have the “C” stitched over his heart on the maroon and white sweater and lead the team onto the ice each game. Although he’s just a junior, Johnson was the popular choice, receiving every possible vote from his teammates. Johnson’s own vote was the only one that went another direction.

“We let the players pick,” said Gloucester Catholic Coach Tom Bunting. “Twenty-four guys voted, and you can’t vote for yourself, so he got 23 first-place votes. That’s impressive. That’s the first time I’ve ever had that happen.”

Johnson said he was honored to be chosen. “It feels pretty good to get picked [as captain]. My teammates push me, and I battle for them.”

It’s a pressure position on a high-profile team, and Johnson is up for the challenge. He plays in every situation, whether the team is up a goal or down one. If the Rams are on a power play, he’s expected to contribute. If they are serving a penalty, he’s the guy killing it off, taking hits in the corner, protecting the puck. Put his body in front of a 90 mile-per-hour slapshot? Yes sir. It’s all part of the grind game where Johnson excels.

“I like getting into battles,” said Johnson, who also plays Tier III Junior A club hockey for the Philadelphia Junior Flyers in West Chester. “I’m not afraid to go into the corners. It’s just how I play.”

And it has earned the trust of his coach in all situations.

“I expect a lot from him. He’s my first line center, penalty killer and power play,” Bunting said. “He’s a table setter, so I expect him to produce. These guys are going to lean on him, not just as a leader, but as a player on the ice.”

Last season, Gloucester Catholic spent a portion of the season as the top-ranked team in the state, compiling a 10-2 record in an abbreviated season due to COVID-19. The Rams had won nine games in a row before losing to Don Bosco Prep in the Gordon Cup Championship – the program’s first appearance in the final game. The Rams are now hoping to make that an annual occurrence. And it starts by playing one of the toughest schedules in the state.

“That’s what it is now,” Bunting said. “We’re done with just being happy to be there. We want to win. It’s not easy. It’s a really tough league with no break in the schedule. We have a tough game next week, and it gets tougher after that. It never stops. It’s like playing in the [National Hockey League]. It’s 3-2 or 4-3 every night. But we feel like we are capable of winning, and that is our expectation.”

Johnson had four goals and four assists last year while playing on the same team as his older brother Zach, who scored two goals and a team-leading nine assists as a defenseman. Zach graduated in the spring, but his lessons still loom large in his younger brother’s mind. They’ve been playing together since a few roller hockey driveway matches when Johnson was about seven.

“He showed me how to compete and how to fight,” Johnson said with a laugh. “But he also taught me how to shoot and how to skate. I was actually going to play football, but my brother convinced me to play hockey. It’s physical, fun and fast.”

More fast and physical than football?

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Johnson said. “It’s not as fast as this.”

It’s a good thing Johnson is up to speed. The Rams have a few players still getting acclimated to the fast pace of the best high school hockey the state has to offer. It’s made Bunting lean more on his core of players who have fought in the trenches already.

“He’s been with me for five years between club and high school,” Bunting said. “The guys that have played for my prior, I have a little more trust in them, especially early in the year when you’re still teaching some guys what you want you expect. Those guys already know it, so I’m going to lean on them even more now than say two months from now.”

Johnson not only expects a battle every night. He craves it. “It’s all about the team,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to win.”


republished here with permission of The Catholic Star Herald