With five minutes to go in the Howard Cup championship game Feb. 7 at the Columbia Ice Rink, Glenelg senior Johnny Lyons knew that his team was close to ending Atholton’s season, and a third straight championship.
The Gladiators led, 3-2, more than halfway through the third period, and just a few minutes were all that was between them and a trip to the Maryland Student Hockey League Capitals Cup state semifinals.
“I could feel it,” said Lyons, who had a part in his teams first two goals.
But Atholton, which won the MSHL state championship two years ago, didn’t look at those five minutes as a countdown to defeat, it looked at them as a window of opportunity.
“I started thinking positive, and what was ahead of us, what we could do,” said Raiders senior Matt Haney, who had the first goal and the final assist in Atholton’s 5-3 win. “I believed we had the team to pull it through and we did. We’re moving on.’
The Raiders scored twice in just over 30 seconds in the third period to take the lead for good. The first of the two came on a shot by Jason Pazulski assisted by Tre’ White to tie it, and the go-ahead goal came on a Power Play from Evan Davis assisted by Kyle Jacobs and Tre’ White with less than five minutes remaining.
Three weeks ago, Atholton (12-0) dominated Glenelg (9-2-1), 9-2 during the regular season.
“We had a strategy with them (in mid-January), and we considered that they would change it up a little bit, and they did. They really took it to us,” Raiders coach Bud Michels said “They really stepped up tonight. They challenged us and made it a game. They really scared us and it made everybody get together.”
After more than ten scoreless minutes to start the game, Atholton broke through first with just over a minute left in the opening period, before Haney — assisted by Ben Fisher and Adam Davis— punched one in to open the scoring.
But less than 30 seconds later, Glenelg freshman Matt Retzbach tied it up with an assist from Lyons and Edward Taylor.
“Our strategy was everybody coming back and working hard on defense and not giving them any opportunities. We have good skill players and I knew they could take care of it on the other end if we just had a few chances,” Glenelg coach Chip Harrison said. “We moved Johnny back to defense and it seemed to work pretty well.”
The Gladiators held a 2-1 lead for almost five minutes, before Atholton’s AJ Zeller scored to tie it. Glenelg’s Gabe Taylor scored a Power Play goal early in the final period to put the Gladiators ahead again, but Atholton didn’t panic.
“I could tell they were running a different system. They were really running a two-man fore check hard, and it looked like they were taking all three forwards right in on the net every time. They really put a lot of pressure on us,” Michels said. “They were using a lot more speed and open ice and we were able to handle that a lot better.”
The Raiders will now wait two weeks until the MSHL state semifinals begin, but Haney and his teammates are just thrilled to have at least one more game to prepare for.
“It just makes us realize how hard we need to work and how well conditioned we need to be,” he said. “It’s been a phenomenal season this year, especially being a senior. It’s just icing on the cake for me. To be able to win states twice in my high school career would be unreal...I just love the game of hockey.”
Undefeated Atholton edged Marriotts Ridge (5-6), 3-2, earlier in the week to get to the championship game, while Glenelg stifled Howard (7-4), 4-1, in the semifinals.
“I knew we were playing really well,” Harrison said. “We’ve been under the radar the whole season...We’ve grown and grown and we peak at the end, which is what you want a good hockey team to do.”
Lyons finished the season with 25 goals and 15 assists, and hopes to continue his ice hockey career with UMBC next winter.
“I just hope (Glenelg) keeps winning,” said Lyons, who scored more than 80 goals in his stellar career. “I hope I can come back to watch a finals game next year, and the year after that, to see all the new kids come.”
A: Matt Haney, assisted by Ben Fisher and Adam Davis, 1:08.
G: Matt Retzbach, assisted by Johnny Lyons and Edward Taylor, :41.
G: Johnny Lyons (short handed), assisted by Stefan Fasano, 11:16.
A: AJ Zeller, assisted by Harsh Patel and Max Bryant, 6:18.
G: Gabe Taylor (Power Play), assisted by Johnny Lyons and Matt Rezbach, 11:28.
A: Jason Pazulski, assisted by Tre' White, 5:14.
A: Evan Davis (Power Play), assisted by Kyle Jacobs and Tre' White, 4:41.
A: Tre' White (empty net), assisted by Matt Haney, :14.
G: Chris Dillon, 17.
A: Kyle Brinker, 11; Matthew Schaab, 2.