The Lightning High School Hockey League (LHSHL) completed its third regular season four days ago, and the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs are set to begin tomorrow night. So, ‘put it in the books,’ as new Goals Leader has also been added to the league’s history book. That skater happens to be the final LHSHL Senior Spotlight for the 2017-2018 campaign.
Seminole Sharks captain Zach Katz finished this past season leading the league by scoring over 50 goals, while helping Seminole clinch consecutive playoff berths as well. Though, the five-foot-nine forward has his sights set on the bigger picture, which hopefully entails leading his Sharks as far as possible in the postseason.
“I just want to win,” said Katz when asked about the team clinching a playoff berth and second place for the Lecavalier Division of the Western Conference in 2018.
Katz and the Sharks reached the Conference Finals (Round-Three of Four) last playoffs, but were defeated by the eventual champions in the Mitchell Mustangs. A composed Katz assured that reaching the 2018 Finals is the goal for both he and the team, too.
“I haven’t been to the Finals yet, and I definitely want to do that,” said Katz. “There’s been an underlying sense of ‘playoff time’ is coming, and we need to be ready to work.”
From meeting with and watching Katz play over the past two seasons, it’s apparent that the senior captain is both competitive and motivated to succeed.
“I want to take it (Sharks 2018 playoffs) as far as we can,” added Katz. “There are some really strong teams this year, but I want to upset some of them, and Amalie (Finals on February 16) is definitely the goal.”
Number 72 for the Teal was also complimentary of his Seminole squad, and expressed gratitude being able to dress with the Sharks for all four seasons. “I’ve made some great friends on the team that I’ve made over the years, and it’s been cool playing with Sebastian Middle, since I played with his brother before he graduated.”
While it was a goal and motivation for Katz to score over 50 goals this season, his perspective as to why he wanted to reach the scoring plateau was encouraging.
“I enjoy comparing statistics with others that I know for fun, but mostly I think it’s me competing with myself,” said Katz. “I feel like I need to achieve what I set out for myself, too.”
Finding the back of the net that often this season has been impressive, but his other playing-making abilities may impress his teammates more so than the captain’s goal-scoring. Seminole defenseman, Maxx Mitchell, has been playing hockey with Katz for a number of years; and the senior defenseman chimed in on what he’s been able to witness Katz do for the past two seasons.
“Another thing that has impressed me about Zach’s on-ice performance is his ability to make plays,” said Mitchell. “Not just scoring goals, though. Zach carries this natural charisma with him, and I think the team feeds off of it out on the ice.”
Katz did mention that he takes pride in those play-making abilities when he’s out on the ice with his Seminole teammates.
(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)
“My ability to see the ice and knowing which plays are going to happen,” said Katz nodding his head. “Kind of seeing a guy out of the corner of my eye, and not even knowing who it is, but being able to make that pass from just a quick glance.”
Mitchell recalled some of those plays in which he’s been on the backend for over the past two years at Seminole, at least.
“One thing that has impressed me greatly about Zach’s game on the ice is his deadly toe drag,” said the Seminole defenseman. “As a teammate of Zach’s for a while, I have seen his toe drag break many defender’s ankles while he scoots towards the net.”
Still, Katz explained what he’s enjoyed most about playing ice hockey and for Seminole.
“The comradery with teammates is the biggest thing,” added Katz. “I think it’s just such an important thing and having guys to fall back on and just building that trust I think is super important; and for a kid growing up having that type of relationship with a team.”
Yes, Katz has been playing hockey since he was around five-years-old, but this season also marks the first time he’s donned a captain’s letter “C” on a hockey sweater. The youngster expressed what the experience has been like this past season with the new and great responsibility, too.
“It’s definitely meaningful to me,” said Katz on being named Seminole’s captain. “I definitely feel a full sense of commitment, and that I need to have the effort and I am a representation of the team.”
When Katz isn’t finding the back of the net or skating around defenders on the ice, the Florida native did express his educational interests.
“I like learning and about things I’m interested in,” said Katz. “I think my strongest strength is being a writer, and I think I write some pretty good argument essays. I’m also interested in History, and think it’s really cool.”
Speaking of learning, this week’s LHSHL Senior Spotlight also discussed his new passion for being a fan of the National Football League (NFL). As of last year, the hockey Phenom never took much interest in the sport – until his travel hockey teammates (Gulf Coast Flames) encouraged him to join their Fantasy Football league. But, Katz didn’t stop there.
He took the initiative to take advantage of a unique situation at his High School located in St. Petersburg.
“I saw an opportunity for our High School Football team to play in a game,” said Katz. “We didn’t have a hockey game that Friday, so I found some days when I went out to the football team’s practice and ended up playing a few snaps at safety.”
Katz also explained that he may try Track & Field for his High School once hockey season comes to a close, too. The Sharks captain does plan on attending a four-year Collegiate Institution once he has graduated from High School this spring, and assured that he will play College Club Hockey at which ever school he attends.
Katz and the Sharks will look to extend their 2018 LHSHL season tomorrow night when the team takes on the Palm Harbor Hurricanes in the first-round of the playoffs (6:30pm at Clearwater Ice Arena).
(The Lightning High School Hockey League can be followed on Twitter @TBLHSHL)