Marriotts Ridge moved one step closer to winning its second Howard County title in three years on Friday by taking down previously undefeated Centennial, 7-2.
Charlie Reynolds had a hat trick and John Miller had a goal and two assists to lead the Mustangs’ (4-0 Howard County, 6-1 overall) offense, while the county’s top-ranked defense held the high-scoring Eagles (4-1, 7-1) scoreless through the first 32 minutes, 24 seconds of the game.
Marriotts Ridge senior goalie Colin Kelley made 10 saves and held his opponent to two or fewer goals for the fourth time in seven games this spring.
“They’re [the defense] making it look a lot easier than it is, to be honest,” Kelley said.
Centennial coach Nick Kellinger said the Mustangs’ defense “is as good as advertised.”
“Everyone sort of knew who Marriotts Ridge was and they did not disappoint,” he added. “It’s an impressive team.”
With the victory, the Mustangs remain the lone undefeated team in county play. And with wins over Howard, Glenelg and now Centennial — three of the four top teams in terms of league record last year and two defending regional champions — they sit alone atop the county standings.
“It’s a really big win. Centennial always plays us tight,” Marriotts Ridge coach Tony Incontrera said.
The recipe for success hasn’t changed all season for the Mustangs: rely on their defense and Kelley in the cage. Incontrera said his team is able to take chances that other teams usually aren’t able to take because they know Kelley is the last line of defense, and even if they do allow a goal on occasion, Andrew Luciano has a good chance to win the ensuing faceoff and give the offense an opportunity to answer.
On this night, however, he thought Kelley “bailed us out.”
“It didn’t work all the time, it broke down a couple times, but Colin made saves where the other stands were cheering,” Incontrera said. “We allowed a goal on an E.M.O [extra-man offense] and on a bad substitution.”
Marriotts Ridge scored three goals in the first quarter on tallies from Reynolds, Miller and Jake Levey and then added another goal from Jack Ault while a man up in the final minute of the half.
The Eagles finally got on the scoreboard when Jake Ritter’s bounce shot beat Kelley with 3:36 left in the third quarter, but just when they were starting to gain confidence, Reynolds quieted them down. He scored 36 seconds after Ritter and then again 30 seconds later to extend the lead to 6-1, a seemingly insurmountable deficit with Kelley in the cage and only 14:30 remaining.
The two teams traded goals in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t get a lot of shots but we had some opportunities early in the game and he [Kelley] made some huge saves right on the doorstep,” Kellinger said. “That’s fantastic goalie play. Our goalie [Alex Kauffman] played well too, especially in the first half, but man, you’ve got to tip your hat to a guy like that.”