March 20, 1997

Though 19-0 this season, the Episcopal senior hasn’t forgotten his lopsided losses.

The Churchmen opened Flyers Cup play last night against Conestoga at Ice Line, near West Chester. I’m, ecstatic the way things have worked out,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve wanted to be a goalie since I was younger. My family were big ice hockey fans. I thought goalie was the place to be.”
O’Donnell was a junior varsity goalie from eighth grade through 10th grade and was Crighton Clark’s varsity backup last year. Overall, he was a great backup goalie for us,” coach Matt Evans said. “We knew he would be counted on. He’s always been a big part of the team. We knew he’d be our goaltender, and if he was on we’d have a great season.” Through his early years at Episcopal, O’Donnell endured his share of lopsided losses. He often was bombarded by shots, which he credits with helping him develop as a goalie. “We did pretty poorly,” O’Donnell said of his eighth-grade season. “I don’t think we won a game. Things got better as I got older. “I started working so hard, going to goalie camps. I couldn’t stand to be embarrassed again. I would let up 10 or 12 goals and couldn’t stand it. I had to do something about it.” O’Donnell began playing ice hockey at age 10 and eventually joined the Wissahickon ice hockey club, with which he spent three challenging years. “When I played for Wissahickon, our team didn’t do that well,” he said. “We had a pretty bad record. I expected to see 30 or 40 shots a game. I saw so many shots, it made me a goalie. It forced me to improve or I would be embarrassed.” Between his freshman and sophomore years, O’Donnell switched to the more successful Haverford Hawks,

who won the Delaware Valley Hockey League title last season. Meanwhile, he was watching and waiting at Episcopal, where Clark, league MVP Dean Boyd, and league defenseman of the year Jamie Ev ans were the force behind the Churchmen’s second-place Eastern League Class AA finish. Although Episcopal’s three big stars who accounted for 58 percent of its goals-graduated, 12 varsity players returned. “We knew we were in good shape with them,” Matt Evans said. “We knew we had a good group coming back. We set the goal to win the league. We didn’t care who we played.” Clark, now at Trinity, was a major influence on O’Donnell. “He was a phenomenal goalie,” O’Donnell said. “He taught me a lot. Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to play this year. I had been working hard, and he worked me harder than I ever had worked. I thought my legs would fall off. We would talk about playing goalie, and he would tell me about what he did wrong.”
Almost everything O’Donnell has done this season has been right. A stand-up goalie, he also holds up under pressure. He prefers to learn from rather than dwell on his “He is very patient,” Evans said.”He can let in a couple of goals and remain focused. He’s not very emotional. He takes everything as it comes. You won’t see him lose his temper. He concentrates to make himself better.” Physically, O’Donnell is steady if unspectacular. “He doesn’t have the best glove or stick, but he stays at home,” Evans said. “He’s got quick feet and uses his stick well. If he sees the puck, he’ll stop it.” O’Donnell’s goaltending skills also

will be tested on the Episcopal lacrosse team. He is slated to start now that all-American Dave Cash has graduated. Actually, O’Donnell began practicing with the lacrosse team on March 3, the official start of the spring sports season. Because of school rules, the ice hockey team may continue to play its games but no longer may practice because the winter season is officially over. “It’s not ideal for me, but the kids stay in shape,” Evans said. While the position is the same for O’Donnell, the play couldn’t be more different. “The obvious difference is that in lacrosse you are not wearing much equipment and not wearing skates,” O’Donnell said. “In ice hockey, it’s harder to learn how to stop the puck. It’s not a natural thing at all. “Lacrosse is a little more natural. In lacrosse, you have more responsibility directing the defense and leading the team. You are part of the offense on clears.” O’Donnell will be choosing from a college list that includes Penn State, Franklin and Marshall, Cornell, and Lafayette. He said lacrosse would be his sport in college, although he’d like to play intramural hockey if it’s available. Picking between the two sports is a decision O’Donnell is glad he didn’t have to make at Episcopal. “If I had to choose, I don’t know what I’d do,” he said. “I love both of them. I love the guys on both teams. We do so much for each other.”

By Ira Josephs
Philadelphia Inquirer Correspondent