NAVY TO PLAY IN NATIONAL HOCKEY TOURNAMENT, COACH TOLD

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Those Mids on skates are headed for Tempe, Ariz., and the National Club Hockey Championships, set for Feb. 27 to March 2. Official berths to the prestigious club ice hockey Nationals go out Tuesday, but third-year Navy coach Jim Barry was told Friday his Mids will be included in the field of eight.

"(The National tournament official) told me Friday that Navy is in, but the official word will come (today) from Club Sports" magazine, Barry said Saturday night, after his Mids clinched a berth in the Northeastern Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs with an 8-3 victory over the University of Pennsylvania.

Navy virtually was assured of a berth in the nationals when it won its own 14th Annual Crab Pot Tournament at Dahlgren Hall last weekend, winning, 6-5, over Fordham University in overtime and 5-3 over West Chester College (Pa.) in the final.

At the time, Navy was ranked 10th in the nation by Club Sports while West Chester was No. 9, but West Chester helped Navy crack the top eight to qualify for the Nationals by upsetting 5th-ranked University of Rhode Island, 6-4.

When the rankings come out tomorrow, Navy should be among the elite eight, probably fifth or sixth.

Saturday night's victory over Penn's Quakers was the Mids' 11th; they have had three losses and one tie. Jeff Fogarty and Tim Fetsch tallied a pair of goals each, leading a parade of six Mids who scored.

Goalie Richie Doyle continued his sparkling play in the cage by rejecting 24 enemy shots.

Navy will play this weekend at the University of Rhode Island in the Northeastern playoffs. Navy won the Southern Division Championship last year, but fell short in the Northeast regional, finishing 14-8-1 overall.

Since coming from Boston three years ago, Barry has guided the Midshipmen to an overall record of 34-19-2 and now is about to take them to the Nationals for the first time in 21 years of the club ice hockey program, equivalent to Division III competition.

Barry, a father of five and an economics professor and counselor at the Naval Academy, has also been approached by National Tournament officials about the possibility of the Academy hosting next year's Nationals. No decision has been made yet.

Ice hockey is not a varsity sport at Navy and does not fall under the auspices of the Naval Academy Athletic Association (NAAA). Its press releases and information, such as schedules androsters, comes out of the Academy's Public Affairs office and not the sports information department, which pretty much refuses to recognize the team.

However, open-minded Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel has supported the hockey program, recognizing the way it has caught on in the yard.

"We are only club in name," says Navy tri-captain Steve Jennings ('91). "We don't get the same privileges as the varsity athletes, but we don't need them. The brigade loves us and considers us a varsity team."

That was never more evident than last weekend, when a huge contingent of the brigade jammed into Dahlgren Hallfor the Crab Pot. Capacity crowds have been commonplace throughout the season when the Mids skated at picturesque Dahlgren Hall, with itsclassic architecture and Navy sea plane hanging from the rafters. As coach Barry once told me, "The thrill of Dahlgren is the ambienceof the arena itself."

Sure would be a great place to host a National.

In other local action over the weekend, the Northeast boys' basketball team beat Archbishop Spalding, 69-46, on Saturday afternoon. Gene Pleyo paced coach Johnny Barbour's Eagles to their 13th win against 5 losses with 15 points.

Pleyo was one of 10 Eagles to scorein the game, in which the winners sank only 13 of 30 free throws. Inaddition to his 15 points, the 6-foot Pleyo also had seven rebounds,one assist and one blocked shot.

Class 2A Northeast is second in Region III behind Forestville of Prince George's County, with Pleyo averaging 13.7 points a game, second only to Steve Strauss, with 17.5 per game. Pleyo, a junior guard, paces the Eagles in assists with 5.7per outing.

Spalding (6-16) was led by Ryan Wade's game-high 17 points.

On Friday night, the Annapolis boys' hoop team won a 92-87 overtime thriller over second-ranked Southern of Baltimore. Meade upset Old Mill, 71-68. The race for the top two seeds in Class 4A Region IV is pretty wild.

The top two seeds are coveted because they mean first-round byes in the regional playoffs. The No. 1 seed has home-court advantage throughout.

Six teams in each region advance to postseason play.

Annapolis took the lead in playoff points -- 107 --with its victory. But if Old Mill, now with 99 points, wins its final four games, the Patriots would win the region over Annapolis, 130-129.

The defending State 4A Champion Fighting Panthers are 16-3 overall, but two of the wins from their Christmas Tournament do not count toward playoff points. So, they are actually 14-3 with three games left.

Old Mill is 14-4 overall, but one win and a loss to Meade came in Meade's Christmas Tournament, leaving the Pats at 13-3 under the point system. Old Mill has four games left and, if they take all four, would end up 17-3, matching Annapolis (provided Annapolis wins its final three). Old Mill would have one more playoff point, however.

What hurt Annapolis was the formation of the "Save the Bay" and "Mr. Rogers' 'Be my Friend' " divisions, which enabled Class 3A South River and 2A Northeast to drop Annapolis from their schedules. When Old Mill opted to play Annapolis only once this season, Panther coach John Brady had to scramble for two games to fill out his schedule. Annapolis scheduled Baltimore Poly, a 3A school and Class 1A St. Mary's. The Panthers had no problem with St. Mary's, but they only got the minimum five playoff points (8 for 4A, 7-3A, 6-2A and 5-1A). Adding to their woes, they lost at Poly, 85-83, Wednesday. Annapolis had beaten Poly to win the Cap City Classic during the holidays, but only the second game counted.

Simply put, Annapolis lost seven points when it dropped the game at Poly.

The only hopes the Panthers have now to take the top seed are to win their final three games over 4A schools North County (3-14) and Glen Burnie (5-12) and Class 2A Southern (11-7) while Old Mill loses one of its final four.

Three of thePats' final four games are at home vs. Glen Burnie, Arundel (6-12) and Queen Anne's (4-12). A possibly tough road game this Friday looms at Thomas Johnson in Frederick County. At last check, Class 3A T.J. was 12-2, ranked 18th by the Evening Sun and certainly capable of upsetting the Pats on their home court up north.

If Annapolis does finish with 129 points as expected and Thomas Johnson upsets Old Mill --or if the Pats lose one of the other games -- the Panthers would take top seed. Meade could sneak into second place by taking its final four games, three of which are on the road.

Meade currently stands third in the region with 93 points and would end up with 125 points if it wins the last four. The Mustangs of Butch Young are 14-4 overall, but 12-4 by playoff standards with road games at Arundel, Queen Anne's and Severna Park (8-10). They also have a home game Friday against fourth seed Broadneck (14-4, 11-4).

Broadneck has a lock on the 4th seed barring a rash of major upsets. The Bruins currently have 82 points with four games to go; the maximum number of points they can earn is 112, including a possible victory at Meade Friday. Meade tookthe first meeting between the two, 45-42.

However, if Broadneck wins at Meade Friday night, the Bruins could finish with 112 points. Meade, by taking its other three games, would have 117 points. But -- and this is a big but -- it would come down to the playoff points average. The average is the bottom line.

In this Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association playoff system, the final average is determined by dividing the total number of points by the number ofgames played. When teams all play the conventional number of 20 hoopgames, you don't have to go to calculator and figure out averages; you just total up the points.

Broadneck will be the only team in the top four with 19 games played (it played three in Wes Unseld Christmas Tournament). So, if Broadneck wins at Meade and finishes with 112 points, divide 19 into 112 and you get a 5.89 average.

Meade could then finish with 117 points, but, dividing by 20, the Stangs' average would be 5.85 and Broadneck would take third seed, Meade fourth. Home-court advantage always goes to the highest seeded team.

The regionals begin with No. 1 and No. 2 watching, while No. 4 seed plays No. 5 and No. 6 plays No. 3. The 4-5 winner goes to No. 1 for the semis; the 3-6 winner travels to No. 2.

At the moment, it looks like LaPlata of Charles County (11-5) and Severna Park (8-10) will fill the final two spots, with Arundel and Glen Burnie having remote chances of sneaking in.

Old Mill has never been to the final four, played at the University of Maryland at College Park. This year's state semis and finals are set for March 7 to 9. Old Mill's best chance of being there would be to sweep their final four games and take the top seed.

If everybody follows the predicted script -- going by what has happened up to now we expect Annapolis and Old Mill to be neck and neck for No. 1 and No. 2 spots -- the 4A Region IV final would find Annapolis playing at Old Mill a second time this season.

Old Mill upset the Panthers, 68-62, at Old Mill back on Jan. 15th, but the big question is, can the Pats beat the defending State 4A champions again? We'll see.

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