Walter Johnson High School ice hockey coach Gregg Ivers said he’s never seen any two players perform together quite like brothers Drew and Jon Ohlrich.
Some coaches might talk about a sixth sense among teammates. With the Ohlrichs, Ivers said you can throw that out the window.
“When you’re watching them play together, you know they’re brothers,” Ivers said. “It’s an unspoken connection. They have a ninth, 10th or 11th sense with each other. They never make a blind pass or a blind drop and have it go bad. They just know what to do. Even two players that have played together a long time couldn’t do that.”
Most of the time, they aren’t even on the ice together. But that hasn’t stopped the two from becoming Walter Johnson’s top two scorers and two of its most reliable players as they attempt to make a return to the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League 2A playoffs for the second time since 2007.
Drew and Jon, who both play defense, grew up playing roller hockey in their neighborhood, along with teammate and neighbor Jessy Gendelman. But with two years separating them — Drew a senior, Jon a sophomore — they never played on the same ice hockey team until last season.
Ivers generally only runs to sets of defenders, and he splits the brothers up during full strength play. But on power plays and penalty kills, the Ohlrichs are both on the ice, which can mean problems for opponents. Jon leads the Wildcats (4-6-0) with three power play goals, and Drew is tied for second with two.
They have different styles. Jon is more offensive-minded and flashy. After Drew pushes the puck forward, he tends to stay back a little longer, minding his defensive obligations.
Both ways are getting results. Jon leads the Wildcats with seven goals and 16 points. Drew is second with seven goals and 12 points. While they are both physically gifted, it’s their mental game that Ivers says separates them.
“They do the little things,” Ivers said. “Like during warm-ups, they don’t just get warmed up. They peak down the ice to see the other goalie before the game start. There are a lot of things they are aware of. They’ve played with or against a lot of these players in the league, and the good players know exactly what a skater is going to do when they’re coming down the ice. They pick up on that, and they’re very competitive.”
Drew has established himself as a natural leader for the Wildcats this year.
Without an assistant coach, Ivers said he allows the elder Ohlrich to run some portions of practice. Players frequently pick his brain for tips, and Drew is all-too ready to share.
“He’s a big role model in my life,” Jon said. “Obviously he’s a really nice kid. He’s very mature, and he’s gotten into a lot of good colleges. He’s an overall good kid. ... I just look up to him.”
Unless you want some retaliation, it’s best not to mess with one of the Ohlrichs.
That came across loud and clear in the season opener against Winston Churchill. Jon received a game misconduct for cross-checking a player in the head after the 10-1 loss.
Throughout the game, the Churchill player that took the blow was badgering the Ohlrichs, Jon said. Drew remembers taking a hard hit in a corner and Jon quickly coming to his defense. At the end of the game, with Churchill’s crowd cheering and the pain of the nine-goal loss sinking in, Jon made the hit. He was suspended for a game.
“It’s good to know he has my back, and he’s right there. That really stuck,” Drew said.
“It’s good to have a player like him on the team. I mess with him a lot and give him a lot of crap if he messes up. But obviously he’s a great player, so I can’t mess with him too much.”