SportsAthlete of the Week


Athlete of the Week: Liberty Hockey's Tristan Ward and Brandon McIlhany

Tristan Ward and Brandon McIlhany
Posted at 8:05 PM, Apr 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-06 13:30:27-04

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Two high school hockey players in Colorado Springs are climbing the national leaderboards. Liberty High's Brandon McIlhany and Tristan Ward are among the nations leaders for most goals and assists.

McIlhany, a Colorado Springs native, put on his first pair of skates at the The Cadet Ice Arena at the U.S. Air Force Academy base.

“I actually started here playing on this ice at the age of two,” McIlhany said.

He now returns as the senior captain of Liberty High School's hockey team.

“It is definitely crazy to think about that. It's been a while that I've been playing hockey and you know, I still love the feeling of getting on the ice and playing the sport I love,” McIlhany said.

Hockey is the sport that is a part of the fabric of the McIlhany family. Brandon's dad, Kent McIlhany, is the head coach of Liberty’s hockey team and his two older brothers, Connor and Andrew are the assistants.

“Connor, ... I definitely looked up to him a lot. Yeah, he pushed me to be the man I am pretty much today,” McIlhany said.

McIlhany is one of the best high school hockey players in the country. He is ranked 12 in the nation for the most goals scored this season, scoring 33 goals.

“When I get on the ice, I am in it, I am in it to win it,” McIlhany said.

McIlhany said his trick is to zone out and dial in.

“I am not really a talker on the ice,” McIlhany said.

It's a different style of play compared to his good friend and teammate Tristan Ward.

“Tristan is a very scrappy, scrappy, fun player. He gets a little bit dirty. It's definitely fun to watch. You gotta pull him away from little scraps, but you know at the end, it is fun,” McIlhany said.

It's Tristan's feist, competitiveness and drive along side McIlhany’s grit, composure and work ethic, that makes these two captains an unstoppable duo.

“Brandon has definitely been that person who's calmed me down in those situations where I'll start getting hot headed and he's the kind of guy that (says) it's not worth it, we got it, we're better than they are, we can just play through it,” Tristan said.

Tristan admits he gets a little chippy sometimes. He picked up a few penalties when his team played against Lewis-Palmer.

With Tristan in the penalty box, McIlhany skates right in front of the net, he gets a little tripped up but the defense is unable to stop him. McIlhany scored the first goal of the game to give Liberty a 1-0 lead. In a blink of an eye, once again, McIlhany puts the puck in the back of the net. That's two goals for him early in the first period.

When Tristan finally gets out of the penalty box, he takes a hard shot, it rebounds right back to his stick. He shoots again and scores!

Tristan led his team for most of the season with the highest number of assists.

“What I bring to the team is that I'm always looking for a play rather than from my own personal play,” Tristan said.

Tristan finished third in the state for the most points with 37 total, 16 of those were goals and 21 assists. McIlhany finished number one in the state with 58 points for the season. McIlhany had 33 goals and 25 assists.

Tristan scored a second goal of the night alongside McIlhany's three goals. The duo helped their team beat Lewis-Palmer 7-3 during their regular season game.

McIlhany said after graduation he wants to play in the Junior Hockey League. Tristan does not have any plans finalized just yet but he hopes to continue his hockey career after high school.

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