One week after watching his team lose a decisive 3-0 challenge against Atholton last Thursday in the Howard conference finale, Marriotts Ridge coach Chip Sheehan didn't have a complicated gameplan for their rematch in the County Cup finals Thursday night at the Columbia Ice Rink.
"We had a team meeting and we leaned on the (10) seniors a little bit more. We told them 'you don't want to have this after the season that you've put in'," said Sheehan, whose team went on to defeat Atholton, 5-4. "What better way to send them off?"
The Mustangs (8-1 conference, 12-2 overall) now advance to the Maryland Student Hockey League state tournament, starting with a semifinal game against an opponent yet to be decided on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
"We're representing the county, but we do realize that the bottle neck gets tight real quick," Sheehan said. "I've got to like our chances with the amount of players that we do have that are playing at a higher level."
Atholton (9-0, 12-1) was the last Howard County team to win a state tournament title, in 2012. The Mustangs won their only other County Cup the year before.
"We wanted it," Marriotts Ridge senior captain Jack Grote said. "We meshed really well together tonight and hopefully we'll keep that momentum going throughout" the state tournament.
The Mustangs struck first, on an unassisted goal by senior Jon Hoskins 20 seconds into the game.
"It makes me feel a lot more comfortable in the net when the offense scores a lot," said Mustangs goalie Brandon Barrett, who made 10 saves in the win. "That first goal at the start of the game just set the tone."
The Raiders responded with goals from senior Jason Pazulski and freshman Michael Cho to take a 2-1 lead midway through the first. But sophomore Jack Watson tied it late in the first, and then Hoskins scored his second goal to put his team back on top.
The teams traded goals in the second period, as Marriotts Ridge's Watson, and Atholton's Cho and Pazulski each collected their second goal of the night during a flurry of scoring. Junior Matthew Costigan's unassisted goal two minutes and 30 seconds into the second period proved to be the game winner. Neither team scored in the third period, allowing the Mustangs to hoist the cup.
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman was on hand for the ceremonial dropping of the puck, and with classes cancelled on Friday for a scheduled professional learning day, the stands were packed with students.
"It was good that they were able to come out and see a game tonight and have fun," Atholton coach Bud Michels said. "I don't think that there's too much that we could have done differently that would have made a difference tonight."