The Marriotts Ridge ice hockey team did not have an extensive scouting report on its opponent Monday night in the Maryland Student Hockey League state semifinals.
What the Mustangs did know is that St. Mary's Ryken, the Southern regional champion, had allowed less than a goal per game on average over their previous 10 games, and the Knights' vaunted defense was anchored by Serbian-born Petar Stepanovic between the pipes.
"The only thing that we had heard is that by their statistics, obviously they had a good goalie," said Marriotts Ridge coach Chip Sheehan, whose team scored five minutes into the first period on its way to a 3-1 victory. "Our gameplan was really simple and it was just to attack and keep all the pressure on (Stepanovic), and hopefully since they were so succesfull all year, they wouldn't be used to playing from behind, and it worked."
After junior Christopher Simpson's unassisted goal in the first period, the Mustangs never let up.
Early in the second period, junior Eric Winik scored on an assist from sophomore Jack Watson, and that goal proved to be the game winner.
"It was a great effort by every single person on the roster. Every forward, every defenseman and our goalie, Brandon Barrett, too," Winik said. "It's amazing that we the chance to play in (the state championship). We've been battling for that all year long and we knew we could get there, and now we're finally there."
Less than five minutes after Winik's goal, sophomore Christopher Jones scored unassisted to put the Mustangs (13-2) comfortably ahead, 3-0.
Stepanovic played well, turning away 36 shots on goal, but the constant pressure proved to be too much.
"That's what we were trying to do is bring the play to them. I think we are a good skating team, we can hit, I think we've got all the facets. We obviously can shoot pretty well," Sheehan said. "They're starting to play the system and it's clicking. They're seeing the results."
Barrett, a converted forward, made some spectacular saves of his own, and nearly completed the shut out if not for a breakaway goal by St. Mary's Ryken (12-2) sophomore Djordje Jaksic with 2:24 left in the game.
"Brandon is not really a goalie, he's a forward that is converted, but he played very well for us today," said Sheehan, whose team allowed only 19 shots on goal. "He's got one more game. You always want to win your last one."
The Mustangs will now play in their first MSHL state finals Friday night at the Gardens Ice House against Winston Churchill, winner of two of the last five state titles.
"They've got a huge program," Sheehan said. "We're going to have our hands full, regardless of the outcome."
Atholton was the last Howard County ice hockey team to play in the state finals, winning the championship over Huntingtown in 2012.
Djordje Jaksic, St. Mary's Ryken junior forward
Christopher Jones, Marriotts Ridge sophomore forward
Eric Winik, Marriotts Ridge junior forward