For players, ice hockey provides escape, excitement December 8, 2022 — by Divya Vadlakonda Photo by courtesy of Jenny CampbellSenior Jenny Campbell plays with the Amherst Lady Knights on Nov. 12. Senior Jenny Campbell and junior Matthew Zhang reflect on how playing the sports has impacted their lives.When junior Matthew Zhang was 5, he watched his first NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks. The speed and intensity of the game inspired him to want to play it himself. For her part, senior Jenny Campbell’s ice hockey journey also began early on — age 7 — and has continued through high school Both hope to continue playing the sport in college. Zhang’s first experience playing ice hockey was at the Solar4America ice rink in downtown San Jose. Later, he joined teams such as the California Cougars, San Jose Jr. Sharks and now plays on the Golden State Elite. The ample experience he gained while playing on these teams prompted a change in mindset about what skills he prioritized. Specifically, Zhang improved at skating as well as gaining a better handle to elevate his shooting accuracy. “I really depended on being a fast skater to play well,” he said. “I’d like to think that I have evolved into more of a skill player.” The sport helped him build solid relationships with his teammates and taught him the importance of leadership, teamwork and discipline. As for his future endeavors, Zhang hopes to continue playing in college, either in an ACHA team American Collegiate Hockey Association- or an NCAA Division III team, depending on the school he ends up attending. Campbell plays at high level for Junior Sharks Campbell’s fascination for ice hockey began after going to a public ice rink and seeing a hockey practice. Even so, she started playing at age 11 because her parents said it was too dangerous to play at a younger age. During the delay before starting to play, however, her drive and love for the sport actually increased, so she kickstarted her passion immediately once her parents allowed her to. “After I was allowed to play, I was constantly on the ice, doing off-ice practice and watching drills online,” Campbell said. “I loved the freedom and team-intensive mindset that hockey had more than other sports.” Campbell plays for the San Jose Junior Sharks on their 19 and under team as a right-wing after playing on their 16 and under team last year. Though she has sometimes rotated to left-wing and has experienced playing center, she found that she played better as a right-wing. With her gradual progress came a better grasp of the mechanics of the sport itself. Campbell’s understanding of the sport in terms of skating, puck handling and shooting developed not long after playing on a team with other girls, sparking friendships that she says are beneficial on the rink. “Almost all of the plays we make go somewhat awry, so usually my linemates and I are going off of pure intuition that comes from our bond off the ice,” Campbell said. Though she does plan to continue playing club in college, she does not want to play at the NCAA level because of the time commitment of her intended major. Even so, the sport has provided a vital escape for her in a way that other sports, like basketball, could not. She finds the sport to have its own level of enjoyable rigor that she continues to experience on and off the ice. “It’s hard to put into words, but I suspect it’s the excitement and spontaneous nature of hockey and the camaraderie, from the locker room to on the ice, that allows me to enjoy it so much,” Campbell said.