Atholton, the defending Howard County Cup and Maryland Student Hockey League state champion, is back at it again.
The Raiders defeated River Hill (4-5-1) Tuesday evening in a Howard conference semifinal game at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel to improve to 11-1-1 on the season.
"We pretty much have half of our core back," coach Bud Michels said. "We don't have guys going out and scoring 25 goals. We spread the wealth, we make sure that everybody understands the system so that in any situation whether somebody's in the penalty box or they're sick or injured or whatever, somebody knows how to play that position."
Senior captain Derek Potter had a hat trick, while Jake Mills collected a goal and two assists. Atholton goalkeeper Tommy Pappas saved 17 of the 18 shots he faced, and has allowed only four goals in eight games, for a .61 goals-against average.
Spencer Gray, assisted by Liam Pedersen and Drew Valdesuso, netted the Hawks' lone goal.
The winner of the other semifinal game, between Glenelg and Marriotts Ridge on Thursday, will meet Atholton for the Howard County Cup championship game Friday night at 10:30 at the Columbia Ice Rink.
"We know all of those kids, so if we beat them its exciting for your team but you feel bad for the other person. But in the end it's fun, it's competitive," Michels said. "For some reason no matter who's on their team, when they play us, they play better. When we play them, we play better. It's one of those things where it doesn't matter who you've got on the ice, everybody's turned it up a notch."
Atholton's only loss this year was to Annapolis/Old Mill, 2-1, on Jan. 21.
Following a tradition they began last year, Michels and his assistant coaches will be wearing tuxedos during each playoff game from here on out, as long as the Raiders are still alive.
"We'll see how far we go. We'll either be guys in tuxedos that look good or we'll be some dumb guys in monkey suits," Michels said with a laugh.
The Howard conference playoffs kicked off on Feb. 4 as Marriotts Ridge shut out Centennial, 8-0, and fifth-seeded River Hill edged fourth-seeded Howard, 6-5.
Marriotts Ridge’s Jason Winik and Jon Hoskins each collected two goals and two assists as the Mustangs eliminated Centennial.
Howard got a hat trick from Erik Davis in the loss to River Hill, and Doug Noonan had a goal and an assist.
The Hawks scored five goals in the third period, and were led by Casey Carpenter (one goal, three assists).