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Justin Reynolds leads Spartans to success on ice and off

Justin Reynolds De Smet Jesuit ice hockey
[Photo courtesy of the team]

Justin Reynolds is a leader.

The 6-foot, 180-pound defensive is a team captain for the De Smet Jesuit Spartans hockey team. He also is student body president. He takes both positions seriously.

“Being the captain is obviously a big honor for me and something that I take a lot of pride in,” Reynolds said. “With that being said, I try to make sure the letter on my chest doesn’t put me above my teammates in any way either in their eyes or mine.

“I try to just lead by example and be the best version of myself on and off the ice, hoping that the guys take notice and push themselves the way I push myself.”

De Smet coach Chris Durso and his assistant coaches pick the captains.

“We are looking for strong leaders who are respected by their teammates and have good communication skills,” Durso said. “We view the captains as an extension of the coaching staff and our interface with the locker room.

“Justin is not super vocal, but he’s not quiet. He is receptive to criticism, he learns from it, and adapts quickly. He is sometimes afraid of conflict, but over the past two years as captain, he has learned to handle himself much better in that respect. He cares deeply about the success of the team and his teammates. I recall a specific instance last season, late in a practice when Justin took a coach aside to work on something with one of the younger players. He does this a lot. Its those moments that will carry forward in the program long after Justin is gone.”

Reynolds also likes being involved with his school, which includes student government all four years.

“For me, as a freshman, I saw it as an opportunity to meet new guys and get more involved with our school,” Reynolds said. “I saw that I could really make an impact in our community and wanted to improve each student’s experience.”

At the end of his junior year, he decided to run for student body president.

“I had an interview, filled out a resume and application, and gave a speech in front of the student body before I was elected by students and teachers,” Reynolds said.

Durso was not surprised by the election’s results.

“I think he embodies everything the school strives for in its goal to develop young men into future leaders in the community,” Durso said. “The school looks to develop young men into men for and with others. A lot of that is through servant leadership.”

“For me, being in student government is just as important as maintaining good grades and being a good hockey player,” Reynolds said.

On the ice, the Spartans are off to a solid start this season. Reynolds has played a role in that, Durso said.

“He’s been a tremendous part of our success early in the season,” Durso said. “We have a strong core group of defensemen with four seniors. So, we are pretty solid back there. Early in the season, he was also joining in on the offense and scoring some goals. He ranks fifth on the team in points and has five goals on the season so far. He’s a guy we can count on to get some power play time with our first power play unit and he’s also a reliable penalty killer.”

De Smet reached the Challenge Cup championship game last March. The Spartans came up short against rival St. Louis University High.

“Justin was a big part of last year’s team,” Durso said. “As part of the leadership group, he helped throughout the playoffs with the other leaders to keep the team focused on the next game. He played really well down the stretch of the season and throughout the playoffs.”

The experience of playing for the Mid-States Club Hockey Association championship left an indelible imprint on Reynolds.

“Our team started to play our very best hockey toward the end of the season and into the playoffs,” Reynolds said. “Every single line and defensive pairing seemed to click when it really mattered. We obviously had great goaltending with Will Oliver and along with that each player played to their role and all 20 guys contributed on our state run.

“Playing at what was then Scottrade Center was really surreal. I couldn’t believe I was out there on TV playing in front of thousands of people for a state championship. That stage really made every guy play their best game and is something I know everyone in our room wants to get back to. It was truly just cool.”

But it’s not just for themselves that the team wants to repeat that experience.

“High school hockey to me is everything. There’s no other opportunity for young hockey players to play in front of and for a whole community. It’s really special to play for something bigger than yourself or a club. It’s all about the hundreds of De Smet students that fill the stands each game.”

Durso said Reynolds helped the other Spartans prepare for the season, too.

“Justin was a big part of pushing all of our players to get better in the offseason,” Durso said. “He participated in almost all of our team workouts throughout the summer. He’s a strong kid and puts in the work in the gym off the ice. On the ice in practice, he is always trying to get reps to get better.”

For himself, Reynolds is playing like he hoped to.

“My senior season has been going very well,” Reynolds said. “I’m actually on track for my best high school hockey season yet, based on points. I’m decently happy with my play, but it hasn’t been good enough yet to beat the top teams in our league like CBC and SLUH.”

He enjoys playing as a defenseman. It fits him and what he wants to do on the ice.

“I think my game is all about quick decisions,” Reynolds said. “I’m not the flashiest, toughest, or most skilled guy, but I think I make smart plays quickly which has enabled me to play at a high level.

“I think my ability to get my head up and make quick plays with the puck and get shots through to the net are my best attributes.”

Durso said, “Justin is a strong skater [and has a] great shot, good hockey sense. He has the ability to join the rush and contribute offensively, but he is not a liability by any means in the defensive zone. He’s not a super-physical player, but he picks his spots. We really trust him in every situation.”

Reynolds no longer plays club hockey. During his freshman and sophomore years, he played for the under 16 St. Louis Selects AAA hockey team that’s now called Carshield. Reynolds captained the team in his sophomore year. Reynolds liked playing hockey for his club but he wanted to devote more time to schoolwork.

“The best part of playing AAA hockey was knowing that you were competing against the best hockey players in the world and probably some guys that I’ll see on TV playing at the highest level in the future,” Reynolds said. “After playing AAA hockey for two years, I made the decision to diversify myself and focus more on building friendships, exploring other interests and committing myself more to my academics rather than solely playing hockey,” Reynolds said. “I think that I may play for fun in college but really want to focus on my academics and making sure that I have a stable career in the future.”

Doing well in his classes is important to Reynolds. He enjoys studying. Taking hard courses and doing well is just as important to him as stopping a skilled forward on the ice.

“I have always pushed myself to be a good student and take all honors and A.P. [advanced placement] courses at De Smet,” Reynolds said.

He maintains a 3.85 unweighted grade point average.

“My biggest goal for the rest of the season is to obviously make it back to the Enterprise Center and win a state championship,” Reynolds said. “I can’t think of a better way to end my senior season and hockey career. ”

Then it will be off to college for Reynolds. He plans on either attending The University of Texas at Austin or Indiana University in Bloomington. Wherever he goes, he will be studying finance and business management.

Durso said he will miss having Reynolds around once he graduates but believes he will go on to be successful.

“He is a quality human being with a bright future,” Durso said.

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