The Washington Little Capitals 14U squad swept the 2020-2021 AYHL American League Championship in Philadelphia with a 3-1 win against New Jersey Titans and 8-3 win against Connecticut Chiefs. This win is the first AYHL Championship for the 2006 squad.
This weekend was a strong showing of team play and outstanding goaltending, which let the team to dominate against Titans and Chiefs. 12 different WLC players contributed with points this week and had over 60 shots on net.
Saturday: Semi-Final Game vs. NJ Jr. Titans: 3-1 win at Ice Line.
Goals came from Talin Sidhu, Caden Clarke, and Benjamin Norton.
Assisting were Cameron Westlake, Owen Roberts, Brendan Robinson, and Gage Shaffner.
Collin Rynkowski earned the win in goal.
Sunday: Final Game vs. Connecticut Chiefs: 8-3 win at Ice Line.
Little Caps goals from Gage Shaffner, Cameron Westlake (3), Owen Roberts, Talin Sidhu, Benjamin Norton, and Joseph Luber.
Assists came from Winston Sweet, Bennett Lin, Talin Sidhu, Vincent Lowery (2), Owen Roberts (3), Hamilton Nordwind, and Gage Shaffner.
Benjamin McCormick earned the win in goal.
All American Forward: Owen Roberts
All American Defenseman: Davian Peretti
Great American Goalie: Benjamin McCormick
“I’m very proud of the boys,” said Coach Ryan Yoon. “You can see how much they developed as hockey players all season. This weekend was proof of that. It was a great team effort by everyone, which led to a fun and satisfying win.”
Congratulations to our WLC 2006 Team: Avery Brown, Caden Clarke, Aidan Harrison, Bennett Lin, Vincent Lowery, Joseph Luber, Sam Malm, Benjamin McCormick, Hamilton Nordwind, Benjamin Norton, Davian Peretti, Owen Roberts, Brendan Robinson, Collin Rynkowski, Gage Shaffner, Talin Sidhu, Winston Sweet, Cameron Westlake, Broden Wood, HC Ryan Yoon, AC Reg Sidhu, and AC/Team Mgr Chris Westlake.
Our 2021-22 WLC Tryout registration is now open.
Since 2013, forward John Sterling been a member of the Washington Little Caps club. Now approaching the end of his eighth and final season, the Centreville native is the longest active tenured player in the club. When he departs in the spring, he will have played on every team in the club’s ladder; PeeWee, Bantam, 15u, 16u, and 18u. John was a member of the 2019-20 18u team that won 25 games, beat three top-20 teams, won a PVAHA Championship and came within a Championship game loss of a trip to Nationals. This year he is a team leader on and off the ice. Next weekend, he and his teammates will again work to extend their season at the USAH Southeast District Championship. And most importantly, John is a model student-athlete, with distinguished track records in academics, character, and excellence on the ice.
Connor Dubberly (current teammate)
John Sterling (aka Sterls) has been my teammate and close friend since I joined the Washington Little Caps u14 year. This is now our 5th consecutive year playing together and every year we’ve spent time on the same line. On the ice and in the rink, John loves to have a good time— always laughing, smiling and chirping some teammates, but when we hit the ice for practice or a game he's all “warrior mode” as our former coach Matt Thomas would say. He pushed me to be a better player and if I made a mistake he would let me know and never in a negative way. I could always count on giving him the puck and getting into the O zone because of the wheels he has. Also, I could always count on having to drag him out of a fight in front of the net after a whistle and always shooting high glove side. Sterls is a fast, heavy, and hard playing forward. His playing style could take him as far he wants in this sport. He never has a “nerf stick” as our Coach Matt Thomas would also say. Off the ice, Sterls always has a positive attitude. My favorite memory was when we were at our District Tournament u14 year. That weekend my dad and I booked a handicapped room by accident, so there was an alarm system button outside the door that when you pressed it, it set off a loud alarm on the inside of the room. Sterls made this a normal routine in the morning and at night to come by and set off the alarm in my room. So the final night of the weekend, I had a jar of cookies and I said, “You can have the jar if you don't set off the alarm.” This was a big mistake; he told the entire team and all my teammates descended upon my room. This turned into a full in chocolate chip cookie war, cookies being thrown everywhere, all because of Sterls. This showed me how much he loves to have fun. He's truly one of a kind—highly skilled and competitive, but also a good friend.
Drew Naylor (current teammate)
Sterls was someone who stuck out to me right away from the moment I stepped on the ice with him at tryouts. Not only because of his talent, skill, or insane speed, but also because of the competitive nature he brought from the start. I love lining up against him in practice because I know he’s going to give nothing but 100% every rep. This has been my first season with him and he became a brother right away. We give each other whacks and slashes lining up for face-offs or drills in practice which just makes the competition even better. Sterls’ leadership, hard work, and experience with the Washington Little Caps has provided someone for the team to look up to this year. Wherever hockey or life takes him I know he’s going to find success.
Duante Abercrombie (current Head Coach)
John Sterling was the first player to make an impression on me during his U16 tryout. His consistently relentless pursuit of the puck was something that I still share with players about how to make a great first impression on a coach, and I would come to find out that this wasn’t a show he was putting on at tryouts. This was who he was on a nightly basis. Sterls is about as passionate of a hockey player that you will find—he absolutely loves his teammates, and wants to win. This drive to win also follows him away from the rink. One of my fondest memories with Sterling would have to be our team paintball outing his U16 year where he and I enjoyed many splatter- filled encounters on the muddy fields that cool Saturday morning. I will for sure miss watching Sterls fly down the wing multiple times a game, and competing in the corners against the biggest players midget hockey had to offer. Players more than twice his size. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to be his coach these last three years, and I wish him nothing but the best in your hockey career and beyond.
Marquise Cotten (current Asst. Coach)
It was a fun time seeing John grow over this season into a real leader and player that everyone wants to be around, Whenever we needed a jolt of energy he was always able to give the team a boost to raise the compete. Sterling always has a smile on his face and a joke ready, but at the end of the day he is a great hockey player any coach would be happy to have.
Zachary Murray (former teammate)
John always has a smile on his face, he is the heart of the team and radiates positivity. We called each other “fighting buddies” because one game up in Marlboro I started some pushing after the whistle and ended up on the ice under two of their players. Sterls came and jumped on top, ripping guys off of me—he is the type of kid you’d want to go to war with. We both hit the showers early that game, as I recall. Also I’ve never seen anyone crank out push-ups like him… the kid is an animal.
Connor Leslie (former teammate)
My last year with the Little Caps was the only chance I ever had to be on the same team as Sterls. Needless to say, he was one of the reasons why that season was such a memorable one. There is so much to like about Sterls both on and off the ice. He’s a great player who can always find the back of the net. He was someone that I knew could always challenge me day in and out at practice. Except for the fact that he led the league in missed nets with his “nerf stick” as Coach Thomas would say. I will always remember how much Sterls would stick up and fight for his teammates (the amount of fights and scraps he’d get into with other teams was pretty funny to watch). As for off the ice, his humor can make everyone in the room laugh. There are countless times I can remember Sterls having me dying laughing for probably the dumbest thing ever. He’s also one of the most likeable and friendly players to have on your team. Whenever you’re around Sterls you just always feel like smiling. Overall, Sterls is the definition of an amazing teammate and personally one of the best friends I’ve had throughout my hockey career.
Will Hopewell (former teammate)
When I first joined the Washington Little Caps organization, John was one of the first guys to make me feel welcome. Johnny was always such a happy and fun player to be around. From cracking jokes in the locker room to team dinners, Johnny was the life of the team. Not only is he an awesome person, but he is an exceptional player on the ice. John played with a sort of grit that is hard to find in other players. He hit the corners hard and always was one of the fastest players on the ice. During practices, Johnny was one of the guys I always was nervous about when he had a breakaway on me. He always had some fun little words to hand me if he scored and if I saved his shot, I returned the favor. We always enjoyed challenging each other during practices. It was a blast having him shoot against me because he always kept me guessing. He truly is one of the most skilled and fun players I have ever had the pleasure of playing with. Johnny is a player you want on any team. He supplies the energy, entertainment, and plenty of goals. Congrats Johnny on an excellent WLC career!
Brent Johnson (Club Goalie Coach)
Since the beginning of my Little Caps career, John has been a very noticeable character on the ice. He always comes to compete and has never shied away from the physical side of the game. His high spirits and dedication to his craft will be sorely missed. It has been my total pleasure!
Lyon Messier (former Head Coach)
John Sterling was 12 years old when I first saw him play. I was coaching in CT when we came down and played the Little Caps, John made quite an impression; I think he had 3 goals, 2 assists, and 12 mins in penalties. The passion John plays the game with I have only seen in a few people. His skating ability is unreal—he probably has 2-3 breakaways a game. The loyalty that he has given to the WLC is what I will always think about. Literally can’t think of a time where John didn’t come to practice or when he was injured and still battled through it. John Sterling is a warrior and a great person! I know he has a bright future whatever he decides to pursue.
Derek Sanborn (former Asst. Coach)
I had the unique opportunity to coach John at both the 15U and 18U level. John is a tremendous competitor both on and off the ice and it really showed with his development from 15 years old to 18 years old. I got to see John mature from a scrappy player who found himself in the penalty box often to a well-disciplined warrior. He plays much bigger than his physical stature and was someone who wasn’t afraid to battle. He always finds a way to make the game fun for him and his teammates. I wish him the best of luck on his hockey journey.
Doug Plocki (Executive Director)
8 years, almost 500 games, it’s an amazing accomplishment. It speaks to his commitment and determination as a player, and don’t forget the commitment his family has shown as well. Sterls is a competitor. He wants to win and plays with passion - always has. From a feisty young kid buzzing around the rink to the imposing young man buzzing around the rink (he can still fly!), it has been awesome seeing him grow as a person and a player.
Matt Thomas (Hockey Director and former Head Coach)
John Sterling is maybe the textbook definition of a ‘weapon’ in hockey lingo. There just aren’t a lot of players that can do what John can do on the ice. His lightning pace is matched only by his fearlessness and competitive spirit. The YouTube talent can mesmerize you… but I’ll actually remember him for how willing he was to adapt his game. I coached him at a time where his teammates needed all that, plus some things that didn’t come as naturally for him… attention to detail, habits, and discipline. It was a tall order for a kid who thrives on instinct and emotion, but John didn’t disappoint. And after a season of refining his game, it paid off; he was probably our best player at Districts—no small feat given the quality of his teammates, opponents, or the stakes involved. That depth of character is what I’ll always remember and appreciate about my time with John, and it’s the reason I know he isn’t done in this game.
John Sterling and all his departing 2002-born 18u teammates will be honored at a club-wide recognition ceremony on Tuesday, March 16 at 7pm in the feature rink at Ion International Training Center. Family and friends are cordially invited to attend.
Entering his fourth year with the club, Matt Thomas joined the Washington Little Capitals in March 2018 as the new Hockey Director after seven years coaching at the NCAA Division 1 level.
As Hockey Director, Thomas has already transformed a variety of aspects within the WLC routine-- informational sessions for parents to show them a path for their child's advancement, a formalized educational program for older players, and a commitment to developing players through a new practice model designed to enhance team-play, position-specific skills, and individual creativity on the ice.
In his first season as 18U Head Coach, despite having only three 18-year-olds on the roster, Thomas cemented the squad as a force in the region, going 11-0-1 vs Southeast opponents. The team won the USAH Tier 1 Southeast District Championship and earned a bid to the USAH National Tournament.
In his second season, the 18U squad again won a PVAHA Championship and earned a berth in the Southeast District Championship game. The team won 25 games on year, including wins against top-20 teams and a 10-round shootout loss to #10 Belle Tire in the finals of the Legacy Global Midwinter Classic.
"I'm excited to see many more years of hockey from these 2001 and 2002 players... juniors, college, and perhaps beyond," said Thomas. "That's really our mission-- to provide the resources for players who want to continue their development."
While coaching at the NCAA Division 1 level Thomas recruited extensively in every developmental league in North America, building relationships with coaches that will benefit Little Caps players as they seek to continue their careers.
Prior to his arrival here, Thomas served as Assistant Coach at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) since 2011. Hired by Head Coach Mike Corbett in his first days at UAH, Thomas assisted the Chargers since their inaugural season as members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference (WCHA) and increased their win percentage each season. Thomas was individually responsible for team defensive systems and defensemen, even coaching UAH’s first-ever WCHA All-League selection. His final season in 2017-18 featured a number of milestones for UAH; four wins against top-20 teams, UAH's first-ever WCHA goal-scoring leader, highest-ever playoff seeding, and first-ever playoff win.
Prior to coaching at UAH, Thomas served as the volunteer assistant coach for the eight-time NCAA champion University of Denver Pioneers from 2011 to 2013, appearing in the national tournament in both of his seasons. While at Denver, he contributed in numerous aspects within the program; including video, practice planning, and individual on-ice instruction.
Thomas’s first coaching experience came at his alma mater, the United States Naval Academy. From 2009 to 2011, he served as Assistant Coach of the Navy Hockey program (ACHA D1). Among his many responsibilities was Recruiting Director; where, despite rigorous admissions standards and prerequisites, he facilitated the matriculation of fifteen recruits in two years—a group that led Navy to their first ACHA National Tournament. Thomas personally recruited Navy’s first-ever ACHA Hall of Fame member, Navy’s all-time leading scorer, multiple all-league selections, and candidates for highly specialized branches of service.
A 2005 graduate of the Naval Academy, Thomas was commissioned as Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy. Upon graduation, Thomas reported to Norfolk, VA, and remained there for four years, serving aboard USS MONTEREY (CG 61) as Tomahawk/Harpoon Officer and USS ELROD (FFG 55) as Damage Control Assistant. In total, he completed three wartime deployments in support of US and NATO operations worldwide. His final tour was as an Assistant Operations Director for Military Sealift Command Headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard.
Thomas was a four-year letter-winner and team captain at Navy, where he led the defense in scoring and plus/minus during his junior and senior seasons. As an All-League player, Thomas earned an invitation to participate in the USA Hockey World University Games camp in 2004. Thomas is a Level-4 certified coach and has coached at the USAH Select 15 and 16 Player Development Camps for the past eight years.
He also scouts for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League (USHL).
The Little Caps are pleased to announce Doug Plocki will continue to serve as the Executive Director for the 2021-22 season. This will be his 13th season with the club.
Plocki began coaching WLC Midget teams in 2009, and accepted the Director role in 2015. In addition to his role with the Club, he serves as Director of Hockey Operations at the Ion International Training Center. He is currently working with Ion leadership to build a complete hockey development program. “We are building an organized development path from entry level up the ranks to midgets and on to junior and college hockey,” says Plocki, “from the first moment a young player enters the rink, he or she will see a clear path that allows them to play here, stay here, and get where they want to go. We are combining learn-to-play programs, house hockey, and A, AA, and AAA travel programs in a cohesive development model. The folks at Ion are as committed to this model as we are.”
As a Little Caps coach, Plocki helped several Little Caps players reach their dream of playing college hockey, and placed players in top junior leagues in the United States and Canada. He helped Little Caps teams win four Southeast District titles in nine years, advancing to the USA Hockey National Tournament each of those seasons. His teams have won titles in the Tier-1 Elite Hockey League, North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), and National Junior Prospects Hockey League (NJPHL). Players on his teams have been regular fixtures at the Atlantic Youth Hockey League All-Star games, and multiple league All-Academic Teams.
Plocki is a Pittsburgh native who began coaching in 1992 with the State College Youth Ice Hockey Association. He returned to Pittsburgh to coach at his high school alma mater and the local Tier-I program. Plocki began coaching in the DC area in 2006 with the Kettler Capitals youth program. He helped coach Kettler's Tier-1 Development Camps beginning in 2008 before joining the Little Caps. “These past few years we’ve moved players into the USHL, NAHL, OHL, multiple Division I and III programs, and have seen many young men and women earn college degrees and launch what are sure to be successful futures. I’m looking forward to continuing that trend.”
Plocki is a USA Hockey Level 5 certified coach, and has coached at the USA Hockey National Development Camp. “The National Camps are an awesome experience- to connect with so many talented players and coaches is a massive learning opportunity and a real honor. I can bring what I learned there to the Little Caps. It’s a great way to help our players and coaches.”
Plocki graduated from Penn State University in 1996 with a BS in Administration of Justice, and earned his JD from George Mason University School of Law in 2002. He lives with his wife Ayana in Arlington.
The Little Caps are pleased to announce Lyon Messier will continue as Director of Player Development for the 2021-22 season.
Messier grew up in the Washington area and played youth hockey with the Northern Virginia Ice Dogs and the Little Caps. He then played junior hockey for the Texas Tornado in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), where he won a national championship, and later with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL). He played major junior hockey in Canada for the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) and Erie Otters (OHL), before moving on to play pro hockey for the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League (CHL). He was invited to the New York Rangers main camp, played an AHL game, and then went to the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) where he won the Kelly Cup with the South Carolina Stingrays. "I feel confident my experience can help our players,” Messier says.
Messier is also the owner and operator of the Messier Selects program, providing spring and summer training and showcase opportunities for area players.
The Little Caps are pleased to announce that Craig Desjarlais will continue as the Director of Professional Development role for the 2021-22 season. In that role, Craig will keep our coaches connected to the latest trends and developments in the game, relying on his network of contacts at the junior, college, and pro levels to keep the Little Caps on pace with the evolution of our game. This is an important position within the organization as we build our complete development model. That model requires coordination of programming and coaching across the club, not only for team practices, but also for the supplemental training the club can now offer its players.
The Professional Development role is popular in successful European clubs, and is a role USA Hockey is encouraging American clubs to adopt as it focuses on mentoring and developing coaches the same way coaches mentor and develop players. “We push our players to improve each week, and the same is true for our coaches- we all want to get better at what we do,” offers Executive Director Doug Plocki. “Craig brings valuable support and important resources we can now offer our coaches to help them improve as coaching professionals.”
“I’m very grateful to be joining the Washington Little Capitals as their Director of Professional Development. The current WLC’s ownership and leadership group is committed to a development model that will provide their coaches and players every opportunity to achieve optimal success. I’m excited to be a part of this vision as the club transitions to their new state of the art home at ION International Training Center in Loudoun County.”
Craig is a hockey lifer. Born and raised in Canada, he worked his way up through the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League before departing Canada for the United States. He was a four-year letter winner at Bowling Green State University (NCAA Div. I), where he graduated with a degree in Business Communications. Craig then pursued a 5-year professional career with the New Orleans Brass (ECHL), Toledo Storm (ECHL), and Knoxville Icebears (SPHL). Craig was named to Knoxville’s All-Time Franchise Team in 2012.
“A lifetime of hockey has afforded me so many great relationships that I constantly utilize to stay current with the ever-evolving game of hockey,” says Desjarlais. “I look forward to building relationships with the coaches, players and families of the WLC and under the guidance of Doug Plocki and Matt Thomas enhancing our skills to create our best product on and off the ice.”
Following his pro career, Craig launched a successful business in Loudoun County, and 15 years on remains President and CEO of that organization. And he has continued his hockey career as well, building a wealth of experience he now brings to the Little Caps. Craig has over 20 years of experience combining coaching and instruction at some of the most established and successful hockey teaching academies in North America. He has worked as Head Instructor at both the Huron and Turcotte hockey schools, as well as working with youth hockey programs at Bowling Green and Knoxville. He has served as Mid-Atlantic Region scout for the Boston Bandits (USPHL – NCDC). More recently he has turned his efforts to youth hockey in Virginia and Maryland, coaching nearly every level from Mite to Midget, including several trips to USA Hockey National Championships.
Craig became a US Citizen in July, 2017. He is a USA Hockey Level-5 certified coach, and currently lives in Leesburg, Virginia with his wife Bettsy and their two children Dylan (11) and Mia (10).
The Little Caps are pleased to announce that Ify Achebe will again serve as the club's Strength and Conditioning Coach for 2021-22 season.
Achebe is a 2002 graduate of Marymount University where she earned a BA in Human Performance and Athletic training. At Marymount, she was a triple sport athlete; playing NCAA basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse.
She earned her Master's degree in Athletic counseling/Sports Psychology from Springfield College in Massachusetts. She holds certifications in strength and conditioning and is also a certified massage therapist .
In addition to her position with the Little Caps, she serves at Landon School as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, and is a personal trainer and massage therapist at Bulldawg athletic training and physical therapy.
"I have been with the Little Caps since 2012, and am extremely fortunate to work with a club where our value system is focused on long term development," says Achebe. "We work as a family to offer a support system that is all encompassing-- from life development to hockey. This enables our athletes to mature into skilled hockey players and emerge as great people."
The Little Caps are pleased to announce that Brent Johnson will be returning as Head Goalie Coach for the 2021-22 season.
A 12-year NHL veteran, Johnson is originally from Farmington, MI. He played junior hockey for Owen Sound in the OHL before being drafted by St. Louis in 1995. He began his NHL career in St. Louis before moving to Phoenix and then the Washington Capitals, eventually finishing his NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012. He hails from a hockey-rich family; his father Bob Johnson also played goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and his grandfather Sid Abel is a member of the NHL Hall of Fame. In addition to coaching the Little Caps, Johnson covers the Washington Capitals providing analysis for Comcast Sports Network.
"Brent is a major asset for our club," says Hockey Director Matt Thomas. "Not only for his technical expertise in goaltending, but also his overall knowledge and perspective on the game. He's been a great resource for our entire staff."