Brothers Dano and Trevor Malik are key players at opposite ends of the ice for the Steinert High hockey team. (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

Hockey players couldn’t ask for better built-in practice partners than Dano and Trevor Malik.

Dano is a senior forward for Steinert and needs to work on beating the goalie with his shot. Trevor is a sophomore goalie for the Spartans who needs to sharpen his skills against shooters.

Hence, a match made in practice heaven.

“We’ve lived in the same house for 17 years now,” Dano said. “We’re always working in the mornings before school. He’s always making tons of saves there.”

Asked if tempers ever flare during the workouts, Trevor smiled and pointed at his big bro, who didn’t deny it.

“Yeah, my little brother is stopping me,” he said with a laugh. “I’m older, I should be the better one. He’s taller than me. He can’t be better than me.”

Trevor seems to be one of the few goalies that can slow down Dano, who entered the season with 56 career goals and 45 assists. He had 12 goals and seven assists as a freshman, tallied 22 and 12 as a sophomore and enhanced his playmaking skills last year while continuing to score as he notched 21 goals and 26 assists. This year, he got off to a fast start with five goals and an assist in Steinert’s first two games.

Trevor shared time with Todd Jewell last year and recorded 322 saves for an .863 save percentage. Through two games this season, he had 102 saves.

The two agree that going against each other fuels their improvement.

“We’re always making a contest out of it,” Dano said. “We were skating the other morning and did a best of seven, I think I went 0-for-4. He’s definitely got me at times but sometimes I’m putting a lot of pressure on him. I’m trying to get him better, he’s trying to get me better.”

The Maliks began their careers when Dano was 7 and Malik was 5; starting with the Learn-to-Play program at Iceland. They soon joined the Mercer Chiefs and have been there ever since. Right from the start, they went to different ends of the ice.

At least in Dano’s memory.

“I always wanted to play offense,” he said. “I always wanted to be the one scoring the goals and making all the pretty plays. He just wanted to kind of do his own thing, not really worry about anything else. He just wanted to kind of stand back and stop a lot of pucks in the net.”

Trevor remembers it slightly differently.

“I started as a skater for the first year and a half,” he said. “The first game I played for travel they needed a goalie. So I was like, ‘Why not, I’ll do it.’ I hopped in goal and had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully my team never lost a game so I got the practice I needed without the pressure. Ever since then I’ve just been working and working.”

It took some getting used to, of course, which is usually what happens when a person becomes a human bullseye.

“It was definitely something new,” Trevor said. “It was a little scary at first, with rubber pucks flying at you. It’s like ‘What am I gonna do here?” When I was about eight I started feeling like, ‘All right, this is my thing.’ I just have to work every day and just get better and better.”

Working is something both brothers don’t mind doing. Dano estimated that the combined time the two have spent going against each other would be, “thousands of minutes if you put them back to back.”

Often times it is just the two of them, sometimes it’s with a 6 a.m. group at Iceland that includes former Hun great Ross Colton along with several other players from Vermont.

“We do a lot of skill stuff, edge work, passing, stick handling,” said Dano, who is one of the Spartan captains. “We’re always coming down and shooting on him. It’s great for him because he’s always getting these shots from these really older kids. And it’s great for me to be playing with them and against him.”

Trevor feels the key to playing goalie is to drill correctly and be aggressive.

“There is obviously the old cliché, practice makes perfect; but that’s not always true,” he said. “If you practice something wrong, you’re gonna do it wrong and mess up. So you need to practice right. And the key thing (during a game) is you always want to come out big. You never want to be in the crease, you always want to be on the white. Keep the hands way out. The farther you are out, the harder it is to shoot, and they have to deke. That’s a lot easier to stop than a shot.”

Dano feels another attribute his brother possesses is the ability to adjust.

“He’s very adaptive,” Dano said. “Once I find out how to score on him, five minutes later he’s figured out what I’m doing. It’s all about changing the game. You have to adapt, and when he adapts you have to re-adapt. It’s all about adapting.”

The older Malik has been working on his craft mostly as a center, although he has also played the wing. He feels there’s no real secret to being a quality scorer.

“It’s just working hard, and you’ve gotta move your feet the whole time,” Dano said. “I’ve gotten a lot of help from (teammate Mike) Miller last year and this year, and Shane Barry too. We thrive off each other. We work real well together and get pucks to the net. “

As for playing with his brother, Dano is thrilled they are on the same team together after all these years. Although they drill against each other, their age difference has always separated them during competition in club hockey. Playing for Steinert finally made them teammates.

“It’s phenomenal, especially for my parents,” Dano said. “We finally got to play together before it’s too late. We were always separated in travel so for them to be able to come watch a game with both of us, it’s great.”

As a bonus, they can take a rooting interest in what happens at both ends of the ice.