Felix Knorr would not be stopped.
Late in the first quarter with the Howard trailing by one, Knorr pried the ball from the face-off circle, cradled it into the basket of his stick and rocketed through the teeth of the Patterson Mill defense to fire a momentous game-tying strike that upstarted an overwhelming barrage.
It came seven seconds after the Lions got on the board, and despite the sluggish start — trailing by two in the opening eight minutes — Knorr’s imperative face-off play paved the way for a 15-2 clobbering of Patterson Mill on Saturday evening in the Karl Wolfe Memorial Tournament title game at Rockburn Branch Park.
“I just think of doing my job,” Knorr said. “Just do your job, like offense and defense. This year I’ve been trying to push it a little more often. … As long as I’m winning face-offs, pushing transition, the score goes up.”
Knorr, a Towson University commit, won 15 of 17 face-offs, powering a lopsided time of possession differential and suppressed any chance of a clean offensive look for Patterson Mill (4-4) after Blake Tallon and Drew Novad put the Huskies up 2-0.
“Felix is an excellent face-off specialist, there’s no doubt about it,” Lions coach Jimmy Creighton said. “Any other opponent will tell you the same thing. The added possessions he gives us, some of the momentum he gives us. If he wins quickly and moves it forward, he’s a huge momentum booster to our team.”
Even Patterson Mill coach Jason Bellamy extolled Knorr’s performance in the circle.
“Their face-off man is really good,” Bellamy said. “We just had a hard time getting enough possessions. Once we did early in the game, we were able to get off to a good start. But they took advantage of the face-off circle and we got in trouble with the clearing game, and they had a whole lot more possessions than we did today.”
But before Knorr asserted himself and sparked the ripple effect from the circle, Howard struggled to craft any offensive flow.
“I told them to stay the course, just keep shooting, keep grinding away on both sides of the ball,” Creighton said. “We kind of started off a little slow, and they capitalized.”
Garrett Rhinevault cut into the deficit with an unassisted goal with about one minute left in the first half and then seven seconds later, Knorr took the face-off and bee-lined toward the net to tie it at 2-2.
In the second quarter, Mark Bruner (one goal, four assists) netted a dazzling goal to give the Lions a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, 3-2, and then Nathan Handwerk, Knorr and Patrick Sutch swelled the Howard’s lead to 6-2 at halftime.
Michael Travisano provided the lone goal of the third period, but then the Lions stepped on the gas for good in the fourth, scoring eight times to cap the 15-0 run.
Though Saturday’s contest doesn’t count in terms of state playoff seeding, it was a modest step forward for Howard in its quest to return to the Class 4A state title, a game it lost, 9-3, to Severna Park.
“I think our team is in a good state,” Bruner said. “Everyone is clicking together. Our chemistry is coming together. Everyone is trying to help their teammates on the field and not playing selfish, which is creating a lot of goals for us. … Offseason workouts and everything, we keep [the state title loss] in the back of our mind, kind of remember what happened to us and come out with that fire and drive with every rep we have in practice with every game.”
Ben O’Conner added three goals and an assist for the Lions, which will host a familiar foe with a little more incentive than the rest: Severna Park next Wednesday at 5:30 pm.
“I’ve been waiting for that game all year,” Knorr said.
Howard (5-2 overall) — 15, Patterson Mill — 2
Goals: Ho — Ben O'Connor 3, Felix Knorr 2, Patrick Sutch 2, Mark Bruner, Nathan Handwerk, Michael Travisano, Connor Denicola, Connor Rhinevault, Will Rund; PM — Drew Novad, Blake Tallon Assists: Ho — Bruner 4, O'Connor, Travisano, Rund; PM — None Saves: Ho — Devlin Bradley 3; PM — Tim Tangires 18 Halftime: 6-2, Howard