ELLENTON — It’s like a moment frozen in time.
A memory Alec Zec will never forget.
One he continues to replay over and over again in his mind when he steps onto the ice.
It was the sixth game of the Sarasota County high school hockey season, and the then Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School freshman had just blocked a shot, beaten the defender back down the ice and fired off a shot of his own from the corner of the rink.
There, Zec stood frozen, silently watching as the puck whizzed through the air toward the net before eventually making its way in.
Zec immediately dropped to one knee, slid across the ice and pumped his fist in celebration of his first goal.
“I didn’t think it was going to hit the net,” said Zec, who turns 18 years old Sept. 22. “It looked like it was going to be high. I celebrated pretty hard.”
Now, four years later, Zec is preparing to begin his final season playing for the Sarasota Rampage — one he hopes will statistically be his best season on record and land him an opportunity to play collegiate hockey.
Last season, Zec finished with 13 assists and has aspirations of recording more than 15 assists this year along with more than six goals — the number of goals he scored his sophomore year.
Zec attended his first practice of the season Sept. 12 and will take the ice for Sarasota’s season opener Sept. 21, against Palm Harbor.
“I think we’ll do better this year,” Zec said. “I want us to at least make the playoffs and hopefully go further.”
Zec began playing hockey in seventh grade after attending a public skate on Christmas Eve at the Ellenton ice rink. Zec, who briefly played hockey in kindergarten before eventually deciding to focus on football, baseball and basketball, enjoyed playing street hockey and attending the public skates.
At the urging of his mother, Vicki, Zec grabbed his stick and headed back to the rink.
“I kind of wanted to try it again,” Zec said.
Zec joined the rink’s recreational hockey team for which he played for the next two years before joining the Sarasota County high school hockey team as a freshman.
“I was nervous,” Zec said of stepping back onto the ice. “I was the youngest one out of everyone. I was only a little seventh-grader.
“It wasn’t until I started playing high school hockey that I got the feel of it,” Zec said. “I got used to hitting. That was the only part that I was really scared of.”
Zec started out playing defense before moving to forward last year, which he enjoys even more.
“I like scoring goals and assists,” Zec said. “You have to play smart (though). You have to know where to be.”
This fall, Zec is adjusting to playing alongside some of his former competitors after the Manatee County high school hockey team decided not to compete this season.
“I actually kind of like it,” Zec said of playing with kids from other schools. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. We’re all pretty funny. Us Manatee and Sarasota kids are all friends.”
Zec practices with the Sarasota County high school hockey team every Wednesday night and has games every Friday night.
In addition, Zec works as a skate guard during weekend public skates at the ice rink and keeps score for the adult hockey team; he also plays lacrosse for Cardinal Mooney.
“I like hockey more, but lacrosse is catching up,” Zec said. “My dad wanted me to try it, but now I actually like it a lot. I’m not the best at it, but I like it.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
*Denotes district game
• ODA, Sarasota, Sarasota Christian and Riverview at North Port Invitational (8 a.m.)
• ODA at Sarasota Christian at Misty Creek Country Club, 8954 Misty Creek Drive, Sarasota (4 p.m.)
• Braden River at Riverview (3:30 p.m.)
• Riverview at Outback Invitational at Mitchell High School, 2323 Little Road, New Port Richey (1 p.m.)
• Sarasota Military Academy at Sarasota Christian at Misty Creek Country Club, 8954 Misty Creek Drive, Sarasota (4 p.m.)
• Venice at Cardinal Mooney (3:30 p.m.)
• Riverview at Venice (3:30 p.m.)
• Sarasota vs. Charlotte at Laurel Oak Country Club, 2700 Gary Player Blvd., Sarasota (3:30 p.m.)
• Cardinal Mooney and Sarasota at Lakewood Ranch (3:30 p.m.)
• ODA vs. Booker (3:30 p.m.)
• Booker at Cardinal Mooney (3:30 p.m.)
• Braden River at Riverview (3:30 p.m.)
• Cardinal Mooney at Lemon Bay (7 p.m.)
• ODA vs. St. John Neumann* (7 p.m.)
• Riverview at Braden River (7:30 p.m.)
• Sarasota vs. Southeast (7:30 p.m.)
• ODA at Lemon Bay (4 p.m.)
• Booker, Sarasota, Riverview and Sarasota Christian at Tarpon Swim Invite at South County Regional Park, 670 Cooper St., Punta Gorda (10 a.m.)
• Riverview at Sarasota (5 p.m.)
• Cardinal Mooney vs. ODA (6 p.m. JV; 7 p.m. V)*
• Riverview at Palm Harbor University (7 p.m.)*
• Sarasota Christian at Keswick Christian (6:30 p.m.)*
• Booker at Bayshore (7 p.m.)
• Sarasota at Braden River (6 p.m. JV; 7 p.m. V)
• Cardinal Mooney at Venice (5 p.m. F; 6 p.m. JV; 7 p.m. V)
• Riverview at Manatee (7 p.m.)
• ODA vs. Sarasota Christian (7 p.m.)
Sarasota vs. Southeast (5 p.m. F; 6 p.m. JV; 7 p.m. V)