Take a glance around a Doherty Spartans hockey practice and Brennen Ward can be found yelling out a command in preparation for the upcoming season or pulling aside a young freshman to offer a small, helpful nugget of wisdom.
It comes as no surprise to coach Will English after naming the senior team captain last spring at the end of the year banquet.
"He walks into the rink and he is constantly talking to guys," English said. "His leadership on and off the ice is unbelievable. The players actually react to him very well and respect him as a person, peer, teammate, friend, the whole nine yards. That stuff has to happen with a captain in our eyes."
Ward is attempting to lead a Spartans squad that is coming off a successful 13-6 season but has lost four of its top scorers from last year - Dusty Kachel, Evan Weidner, Patrick Alldredge (left the team for U16 AAA club hockey) and Cameron Komrofske - that combined for 55 goals and 62 assists.
The senior is the team's leading returning scorer (9 goals, 8 assists) and is slated to center the Spartans' top line featuring talented first-year player Mikael Smart, a senior from Finland attending Mitchell High School, and Ryan Lefebvere.
Doherty is hoping Ward can become the team's dynamic offensive threat and scorch the back of the net similar to what Kachel and Weidner did last season. Ward considers himself a power forward that likes to "bang around, get dirty and play make with the puck," and he knows he will be looked upon at times to "spark" the team.
However, Ward also understands for the Spartans to be successful it will take more than just a singular effort from him or another one or two players. As a captain, he has to make sure the freshmen and other young players continue to develop.
"There is a lot of pressure because this is a pretty young team, so you kind of have to step up your game but kind of slow it down for them and make sure they are positioned right and teach them and still be focused on what you need to do as a leader," Ward said.
English understands his senior will feel pressured at times, but the third-year coach believes Ward is ready for the challengeand will have some help along the way.
"The pressure is on Brennen a little bit as far as filling that (offensive) void, but with the line that he is playing on currently, and the guys following up behind him, I don't see it being a huge pressure for him; but he is going to take on that role, there is no ands, ifs or buts."
English has stressed the term "eagerness" a lot with his team this preseason and Ward has taken that word to heart.
"His eagerness to get into the play and want to score goals is there," English said. "His drive is above and beyond where it was last year. Again, that's going to help fit that role of him being that go-to guy for scoring."
Not only is he eager to find the back of the net, but Ward is anticipating the start of the season on Monday when Doherty hosts Dakota Ridge at 7 p.m. at Sertich Ice Center.
"I'm really excited to start my senior year and to show everyone that Doherty hockey can do what they did last year," Ward said. "High school hockey is a lot of fun, and you try and represent your school as best as you can."