In a ceremony held before the Maryland Student Hockey League state championship on March 1—Montgomery County’s Winston Churchill High School defeated crosstown rival Thomas S. Wootton—ninth-year Urbana ice hockey coach Toby Heusser was honored as the league’s statewide Coach of the Year. On Feb. 23 he was named the Monocacy Valley Conference’s Coach of the Year for the second time, first since 2010-11.
“I wasn’t expecting it or even know I was in the running for (the state honor), but it’s very nice,” Heusser said. “Out of the more than 75 teams in the state with a high school hockey team, I didn’t think coaches in other conferences would even know who I am. There are a lot of great coaches in the state, I’m just doing my thing and to be rewarded from the whole state, it’s humbling.”
The Hawks won their first conference title since 2011 this winter before falling 4-3 to Kent Island in the first round of the 16-team state tournament. Heusser’s recognition despite the early playoff loss is a true testament to the impact he’s had at Urbana, both on and off the ice, said Hawks senior defender Dylan Leishman.
While Heusser, who played collegiately at Towson University, is uniquely knowledgeable about the game, brings elite-level experience and “loves to win,” his priorities are centered on developing well-rounded young adults and becoming a true mentor for his players, not only during their four years of high school but for life.
“(Heusser) is always willing to go the extra mile for all of us,” Leishman said. “He’s very reachable. He’s obviously an amazing coach, but it’s all the little things that he does off the ice as well.”
The community-oriented and team-first culture Heusser has built within the Urbana hockey program is predicated on trust and those strong bonds translate into tangible success on the ice, said sophomore forward John Rempe.
“I had a lot of great coaches, a lot of great mentors and teachers in the classroom who were positive influences in my life, and I want to give back in the work I do,” Heusser said. “I don’t remember the scores of every game or championship I played, but I do remember those special times when a coach made an impact on my life. I want my players to know they can come to me at any time in their life.”