Panthers hope to defend state title

by | Aug 11, 2022 | Latest, Sports

The hardest thing about winning a state championship is defending it.

That’s exactly where the Plano East Panthers hockey team is at this season, fresh off of their best season to date. The Panthers won the 2A Texas high school state championship in January, the first state championship for the school championship in quite some time. They later followed it up with a 2A district championship in the city league, before losing to Denton County in the city championship game.

Gone are several key seniors from the championship team last season, but coach Thomas Joyce said the team is building new with younger talent waiting in the wings.

“It’s definitely going to be a building year,” Joyce said. “We lost nine seniors from the 18-man skating roster last season, so that’s half of our varsity roster gone with a 10th player potentially moving up to the next level as well. It’s a lot of turnover in our roster, but we’ve got strong goaltending and players who I know can step up and contribute.”

Leading the way in the net for the Panthers is Micah Laird, who was the city league goalkeeper of the year in 2021. Laird had an 11-2 record for the season to go along with 2.57 goals against average and a .895 save percentage. Most importantly, he stepped up when his team needed him most in the state championship tournament, saving nearly 94 percent of shots on goal.

“He was the top-voted goaltender in the league last year for a reason,” Joyce said. “He’s got loads of talent and is going to be the guy for us after losing the bulk of our defense from last year. I look at when we had games without some of our top offensive players and Micah came in and stole some of those games for us. He did that at the state championship battling back from being sick and he’s going to be a key player for us.”

Along with Laird, the Panthers still have plenty of attacking talent from the 2A’s top-scoring offense last season. Leading in that department is Skylar Bawcom, who scored a league-leading 48 points in the city league last season.

For the full story, see our Aug. 11 issue or subscribe online.

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