MISSOULA — When a pair of freshmen joined up with the Missoula Bruins high school hockey team two years ago, coach Greg Robitaille had a problem.
He had too many Henrys.
Henry Charman, then a sophomore, was already on the squad before Henry Ledyard and Henry McDougall moved up to Missoula's prep hockey squad. Anytime he yelled for Henry, he'd have three skaters stop and look.
"We don’t say 'Henry' for that reason," Robitaille said at a Wednesday practice, two days before his Bruins' first-round game in the annual Missoula Holiday Classic tournament. "There’s always a time where we can’t quite figure out who’s around.
"When I met them all three or four years ago I decided right then that this ain't going to be a Henry deal. So instead of having one remain a Henry, we decided none of (them) will be."
Now all three — Charman in his senior year, and juniors Ledyard and McDougall — have individual nicknames. It helps alleviate the dilemma in identifying each Henry on the ice.
In fact, the problem now shifts to opponents, who have to figure out how to slow down a tenacious trio that are emerging as leaders on the defending state champion — and national runner-up — team.
If Robitaille yells out for Hank at Glacier Ice Rink in Friday's 8 p.m. first-round game of the Holiday Classic, he's looking for Henry Charman. The center is one of just three seniors on a squad that graduated a slew of upperclassmen last year.
The Bruins coaching staff expects Hank to step into a leadership role, and Charman has begun to answer the bell.
"The last couple years we had a lot of leadership with all the seniors we’ve had, and I’ve definitely looked up to all those guys, so it’s weird knowing that some of these guys are looking up to me," Charman said. "It’s different, but I was ready for it and I’m getting used to it."
According to the team's Pointstreak page, Charman is fifth on the team in total points, and fourth in goals scored.
The No. 1 goal scorer this season, so far, belongs to another Henry: Henry McDougall, or as his team knows him, "Doogs."
Doogs has scored 11 times, including a breakaway goal last Saturday that illustrated just how dangerous of a player he can be for the Bruins.
"McDougall’s got tremendous speed, he’s a very good skater; he likes to dingle and dangle with the puck," Robitaille said, adding that he and Charman may be two of the fastest skaters in the state.
"... Hopefully he’ll be convinced that by (grinding in the defensive and neutral zones), he’ll get even more opportunities. The big message for (McDougall) right now is his speed is a weapon with and without the puck."
In a way, that's sort of a lesson the third Henry had to learn before the season, too.
Henry Ledyard, known as "Junior" on the ice, was asked before the season to switch from his more comfortable forward position to defense. The Bruins were decimated on D by graduation, as they returned just one point man (senior Thad Kendrick).
Coach Robitaille knew they'd need Junior to change positions.
"I went to him early in the season in October and said ‘good news, bad news. You’re going to get a boatload of ice time, the bad news is it’s all going to be on D," the coach said. "He’s the most adaptable kid we have, he’s super coachable, he puts team first.
"... That in and of itself shows a tremendous amount of leadership."
For Ledyard the move means fewer goal-scoring opportunities, but he's enjoyed the change of pace.
"I’ve always been a pretty defensive-minded forward, I’d much rather have the sense of them not scoring than our team scoring," he said.
And with predominately a two-defensive-line set, Ledyard spends a lot of time on the ice with the two other Henrys — Charman (Hank) and McDougall (Doogs).
"The other Henrys might get a few shifts on the same ice, but since we only have four (defensemen), I have to play basically half the game," Ledyard said. "I’m normally on the ice a good amount with those guys."
That means a Henry goal, assisted by both Henry and Henry is a real possibility.
The Bruins have their first chance of the weekend to make that a reality against the West Sound (Washington) Warriors at 8 p.m.
Missoula, which won its home tournament last season, continues pool play in the Holiday Classic at 1:45 p.m. Saturday against Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Bruins finish pool play against Everett, Washington, at 7:45 p.m. that night.
The placing rounds and championship matchup are slated for Sunday.