Immediately after making 15 saves in his team's 4-1 win over Glenelg in the Howard County Cup game Friday night at the Columbia Ice Rink, Atholton senior goalkeeper Tommy Pappas emerged from the locker room and perched a smart fedora atop coach Bud Michels' head.
It would have looked ridiculous, except that Michels was already wearing a full tuxedo, following a tradition that started last year when Atholton won its first Howard County Cup, and less than a month later, its first Maryland Student Hockey League state title.
"I don't mind (the tuxedo) one bit," Michels said. "The whole team was focused. They were here an hour and a half early ... I didn't have to say anything to them."
That focus showed as Atholton quickly took a lead less than 15 seconds into the game when sophomore Jason Pazulski took an assist from Derek Potter and Evan Davis and slapped it into the net.
But before the first period was over, Glenelg senior captain Charlie Harrison tied the game on a power play goal. One night earlier, Harrison had scored an overtime game winner against Marriotts Ridge at the Gardens Ice House in a Howard conference semifinal game.
"I think we played just as hard as we did yesterday, we definitely came out strong," Harrison said. "I think it could have gone either way. We got a little down on ourselves but we weren't gonna let it be a blowout."
Pappas said he was concerned after the game was tied, "as all goalies are," but early in the second period, Atholton freshman Daniel Fisher pushed a deflected shot across the red line for what proved to be the game winning goal.
"They're a little bit better passing team, they moved the puck which created the scrambling situations," Glenelg coach Chip Harrison said. "We just ran into a team that was patient and flowed down the ice five at a time. When they move down the ice five at a time and we had a couple guys back-checking behind them, they just set up and started ping-ponging it around."
Jake Mills, who also had two goals in last year's County Cup game, scored two unassisted goals — the first immediately after exiting the penalty box — to put the game away.
"My defense just played great. We played very well," said Pappas, who allowed only four goals in seven regular season games. "It was a team effort to shut them down and it was all strategy from our coaches."
Because the rest of the MSHL conferences have their championships next week, Atholton will now have a week off to wait for the MSHL state tournament to begin.
And Glenelg, which won the County Cup each year between 2008 and 2010, and became the first Howard County team to win a state title in almost 20 years back in 2010, was not discouraged.
This team "had the most heart I've ever played with on a team," Charlie Harrison said. "I'll miss this team. Going back to travel is not going to be the same."
A: Jason Pazulski assisted by Derek Potter and Evan Davis, 14:16. [1-0]
G: Charlie Harrison unassisted, 3:04. (Power Play). [1-1]
A: Daniel Fisher assisted by Derek Potter, 13:05. [2-1]
A: Jake Mills, 4:50. [3-1]
A: Jake Mills, 11:54. [4-1]