- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
With the playoffs fast approaching, the Southern Maryland-based high school ice hockey teams are making a last push for playoff positioning.
As of Saturday, Northern (8-0, 8-0 Southern Conference) held the top spot in the Southern Conference with 16 points, thanks to its currently unblemished conference mark.
“We entered the season with a lot of concerns about team size and lack of an experienced goalie,” said Northern head coach Erik Larsen, whose team is allowing just more than two goals per game. “We took a big risk entering the season as a pure team [one comprised by all Northern High School players], but the players have really delivered. They have exceeded everyone’s expectations and continue to grow stronger every game.”
Leonardtown and Huntingtown are currently tied for second place with 14 points apiece, even though the Raiders have played three fewer conference games. St. Mary’s Ryken and La Plata are in a tie for the fourth and final playoff spot with eight points apiece, and Bowie and Thomas Stone are still in the playoff picture with four points each.
The Chesapeake Cup playoffs, which determine the tournament champion, will be held in mid-February.
All Southern Conference teams saw action recently, beginning with Northern’s 10-2 win over Thomas Stone on Jan. 21 at Tucker Road Ice Rink in Fort Washington. The Patriots scored three goals in the opening period and carried a 5-1 advantage into the third period.
Michael Carr scored five goals and added an assist for the Patriots, while Michael Santiago added four points (goal, 3 assists) and Andrew Bruening added two goals and an assist. Willie Bennett and Joe Gebicke each scored once, and James Layman stopped 18 of 20 shots in the Patriots net.
The Cougars (2-8, 1-7) received a goal and an assist courtesy of Hunter Stempin and Alexander Parnes. Goalie Kira Maginnis, who head coach Tim Higgins said was the team’s most consistent player, made 41 saves.
“We are playing much better overall, but we need to find a level of consistency in our games,” said Higgins, whose team has lost its last three games and has scored just seven goals over that span. “We played a great second period against Leonardtown but failed to play the same way in the third period, and that was frustrating to me.”
A day later at the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf, Ryken surrendered five third-period goals and fell 8-1 to a non-Maryland Scholastic Hockey League team. It trailed 1-0 after the first period and 3-0 heading into the final period.
Ryken’s Evan Brennan scored an unassisted goal late in the third period to close the gap to 6-1. Tucker Rhodes stopped 33 of 41 shots for Ryken, which is winless in its last six (0-5-1) and scored just six goals.
“Since the turn of the new year, the team has struggled to find its identity,” Ryken head coach Chris Palombi said. “The team is in a very big rut [mentally] right now and have to work that much harder to physically and mentally prepare for games in order to get that taste of winning again.”
Last Wednesday in Waldorf, Leonardtown led 5-4 after the first period but slowly pulled away in the second stanza to earn a 9-5 victory against La Plata.
It was Leonardtown’s sixth straight win, during which it is averaging more than five goals per game.
Gordon Bonnel had a hat trick and an assist for the Raiders, and Alec Guarnero had three points (2 goals, assist). Travis Haffer, Eric Johnson, Nicholas Pontorno and Alex Vendrasco each scored once, and Jarrett Henderson provided two assists. Jonathan Schroeder and John Broich each added one helper.
The Warriors were led by Joshua Wenzinger’s three-goal night and single goals by Jake DeLozier and Kyle Milhouse. Eric Brawner, Anthony Blankenship, Andrew Keelan and Brandon Lee-Thompson each ended with one assist. Trevor Abell made 18 saves in the losing effort.
The Warriors are winless over their last three games (0-2-1).
“Our play has taken an upswing following the winter break,” said La Plata head coaches Matt Golanka and Geoff Howard in an email. “We made some lineup changes, and many of the players have adapted quickly; this has been a positive factor with our play. Every game, we have seen improvements, especially from some of our first-year players. As a team, we are working on continuing to make progress to be competitive and tougher to play against. [We] wish we could have peaked earlier in the season to have been more competitive in the standings as the regular season is coming to an end.”
On Friday, Leonardtown claimed a 6-2 win over the Cougars in a wild game at the Clubhouse. The Raiders scored three goals in the first and third periods, and Stone scored twice in the middle period to pull to within a goal.
Broich and Cullen Bonnel each had two goals for Leonardtown, and Johnson and Guarnero each tallied once. Pontorno had four assists, and goalie Joe Molina stopped 12 of 14 shots.
Stone received a goal each from Jake Keessee and Sean Bucior and an assist each courtesy of Parnes, Kristopher Algarin and Stempin. Maginnis finished with 25 saves.
Huntingtown made the most of its appearance Friday night when it demolished Bowie 14-0 at the Clubhouse. The Hurricanes scored five goals in the first 4 minutes 29 seconds of the game and led 8-0 after the first period.
Huntingtown had three unassisted goals on the night, and 12 of its 13 players registered at least a point as it reached double digits in scoring for the sixth time this season.
Patrick Laiosa led the team with two goals and three assists, and Ben Camilletti and Tyler Sullivan each had three goals and an assist. Matthew Scott added two goals and an assist, and Tyler Myrick and Jason Merewitz each had a goal and three helpers.
Bauer Cipressi and Collin Gray each had a goal, and Bryce Oursler added two assists. Robert and John Hand and Brendan White each had one assist. Cody Powers made four saves to earn the shutout.
Also on Friday in Waldorf, John Bouchard scored an unassisted goal late in the second period to help Ryken earn a 1-1 tie against La Plata. Rhodes made 26 saves.
La Plata opened the scoring on a late first-period marker courtesy of Kacy Baldwin off assists from Brawner and Keelan. Abell stopped 18 shots.
“At the beginning of the season, creating team chemistry was the goal that we set for ourselves,” Larsen said. “With a roster as small as ours, there is no place for a player to hide. Everyone needs to contribute and everyone needs to support each other. So far, the team has really come together well with every player registering productive stats.”