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Rams captains Saldanha, Brown epitomize true leadership

 

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As a first-year program, St. Mary’s High School has turned heads in Stockton and the surrounding areas.

And while the vast majority of the school taking the ice falls on the shoulders of the Rams’ coaching staff and school administration, two players have stood out this season as team captains.

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Ethan Saldanha is the St. Mary’s captain this season with Clayton Brown serving as the alternate captain. Both juniors relish playing for the Rams and taking on leadership roles.

“Being the captain of this team has been a big responsibility,” said Saldanha, an Oregon native. “Being captain means that you’re a leader but it’s not ‘what I say goes.’ I learned that early in the season. Captaincy is leading when the going gets tough and being a figure of guidance when it’s not.

“For my coach (Derek Eisler) to select me as captain, it means a lot to me. He says that I have qualities that make people like me and that I can converse with people easily – qualities of a leader.”

Brown, who played last season for the Valencia Jr. Flyers, is equally proud to have a letter on his jersey this season.

“On this team, being a captain is not only an extension of the coaching staff, but you have to set a good example for your teammates, be selfless, and work harder than the ones next to you to make not only you, but your teammates, better,” Brown said. “To me, being a captain of this team is special. I’ve never been part of a team that is so close. It motivates me to do better and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

This season, the Rams play in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League and the NAHL Prep League. Wins and losses aside, the 2018-19 season has been an eye-opener on many levels.

“This season has been full of ups and downs, but overall, as a team, we are getting better and better as time progresses, so this is a good season in my eyes,” Brown said.

“I would say our season hasn’t gone the way any team would want, but we are turning that around swiftly in 2019,” said Saldanha. “As for the season with this group of boys, we’ve come together quite well. We’ve had our bumps in the road, but that just adds to the character of our team. It hasn’t been the winning experience on our record, but it has been a winning experience with the boys.

“We have all risen to the challenge to compete at the level we do, to overcome our disadvantages. All of us come from different backgrounds, ranging from B-level to AAA, and we’ve all come together like a quilt to create the unit we are. I would definitely say we are not your typical varsity hockey team. We have two players from Israel, and the rest of us have been pulled from the surrounding areas of California, a couple from Bakersfield, and myself from Oregon.”

Being a student at St. Mary’s also means that the academics are just as demanding as the hockey component.

“St. Mary’s hockey takes a lot of commitment,” said Brown. “We practice every day as well as weightlift. As long as you’re willing to put the work in, the results won’t take long to show. Compared to past teams I’ve played for in SCAHA, I’ve never put this much work in. Being around the sport more often helps to create a higher sense of seriousness that you just can’t find in club hockey.

“At St. Mary’s, school comes first. If you fail at school, you don’t get to play. From the teachers, to the counselors, this school is fantastic. With my experience in all sorts of school (public school, homeschool, online school) I prefer St. Mary’s the most. Although it may be a challenge sometimes to balance school and the hockey, it is definitely worth the effort. You will be ready to go to college after attending St. Mary’s.”

— Matt Mackinder

(March 13, 2019)