WOODBINE — Since Saturday's boys lacrosse games at Western Regional Park in Howard County didn't count toward MPSSAA state playoff seeding, Century coach Jeremy Benson went with a different approach.
Instead of plugging trusty senior goalie Chris Yanchoris in front of the cage, a Siena commit and a two-time all-county first-teamer, Benson summoned junior Adam Zimmerman.
It was an opportunity for the junior to gain valuable in-game experience since the keys to minding the net could be his next spring. That plan worked out Saturday morning. The result, however, did not.
River Hill started fast, mounting a two-goal lead before Century could register its first shot, and it proved to hold true in the end as the Hawks salvaged a 5-4 win on a cold, blustery morning.
"Before we could get settled on what they had, they were able to bury it early," Century coach Jeremy Benson said. "[River Hill] had some really good players and were able to bury it early. ... But [Zimmerman] did great. The defense kind of left him abandoned for the first few shots, but he was able to settle down, shut them out in the second half."
Century (2-2) was also without two starters, and a third went down three minutes into regulation. Face-off specialist Brady Crumbacker exited the contest on a stretcher after a nasty helmet-to-helmet blow knocked him to the turf, causing a 25-minute delay.
Since the Knights had a meeting with Glenelg at 11 a.m., referees played the second half with 15-minute, running-clock quarters.
Zimmerman played the entire game and finished with three saves. On paper, Century outplayed River Hill (3-2), rifling 23 shots compared to the Hawks' 14 and winning the face-off battle, 7-6. The difference was River Hill's fast start and goalie Kevin Hickey, who shined in an 11-save outing.
"Kevin was outstanding," River Hill coach Keith Gonsouland said. "We don't win the game without Kevin. I feel really happy for him because he worked really hard this winter."
Brendan McKenna (two goals, one assist) ripped a waist-high goal past Zimmerman to put the Hawks up 1-0 not even two minutes into regulation. Roughly 90 seconds later, Ryan Henry followed with a one-timer to make it 2-0 at the 8:35 mark in the first quarter. By then, Century struggled to gain even the slightest control on offense.
Brett Kropinski (two goals, one assist) got the Knights on the board with an unassisted goal at the 6:37 mark, but 14 seconds later, Tyler Hopkins put his Hawks up by two once more, 3-1, with an unassisted strike.
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River Hill piled on two more goals in the second quarter — an unassisted dazzler by McKenna and Kurt Bentson one-timer — to take a 5-1 lead into the half.
But with a dialed up attack, Century made things interesting down the stretch.
Kropinski and Carter Truby netted goals in the third quarter to draw within 5-3. River Hill didn't record its first shot of the second half until the 10:30 mark in the fourth frame. Julian Schemm made it a one-goal game with 10 minutes to go, but Century couldn't leverage anymore momentum and climb out of a sluggish start.
Benson said there might have been some carryover from a humbling 12-1 loss to Towson earlier in the week.
"Towson was a little rough," the coach said. "But I'm proud of the way they settled in. … It's great because we're normally practicing in the morning. Two games is a lot better than a practice, I'd say. It lets you get a few more reps."
As for River Hill, they're still recovering from detrimental injuries. Offensive centerpiece Max Friedman suffered a season-ending ACL tear two weeks ago and McKenna, a two-goal scorer on Saturday, played in just his second game.
"We're just trying to get healthy and develop some chemistry," Gonsouland said. "We moved the ball really well in the first half. I like that we found a way to win a game. We limped home."