With the final seconds ticking away and the result not in doubt, a Midshipman warned his teammates to "keep your helmets on when we shake hands with those guys."
It was good advice as Navy (9-3-2) rolled to a nasty 8-3 decision over the University of Maryland (11-8) in the first round of the 16th annual Crab Pot Ice Hockey Club Tournament at Dahlgren Hall in Annapolis.
With seven different players scoring goals, Navy escaped with no serious injuries after what was a bruising, NHL-like brawl with the Terps. The slugfest featured not only flailing sticks, frequent trips to the penalty box, and flying skaters, but one Mid who was driven right through the Plexiglas near the Navy bench.
"It was a donnybrook, exactly what I didn't want to get into but what we expect when we play Maryland," said Navy's fifth-year coach, Jim Barry, whose squad avenged last year's Crab Pot championship 6-5 overtime loss to the Terps.
The victory puts Navy in position to win its second Crab Pot in three years. The Mids meet Eastern Michigan (13-4) for the championship of the Crab Pot today at 4 p.m.
The Eagles got a hat trick from freshman Tim Vosnick and five assists and one goal from junior Scott Ruffing in a 12-5 rout of Worcester (Mass.) Polytech (8-5) to advance.
Maryland and Worcester will play a 1 p.m. consolation today, and admission is free.
In defeating Maryland for a second time (also 12-7 on Dec. 4), the Mids outshot the Terps, 27-13.
Right wing Rob Doherty scored two goals and junior Jim Swanski and seniors Steve Roberto, Ben Fitchett, Jeff Fogarty, Eric Fontaine (two assists) and Bob Braun had one apiece. Sophomore Brian Erickson chipped in with two assists and junior Charlie Bowser had another.
"Every line contributed and we wore them down," said Roberto.
Fitchett, Doherty and Fogarty scored to give the Mids a 3-1 lead at the end of the first period. The Terps' goal was scored by Rob Armbruster.
Eric Fork set up Mike Coakley for Maryland's second goal about two minutes into the second period, but Navy answered a couple of minutes later to make its lead 4-2.
Bowser assisted Braun for the fourth goal and Swanski's slap shot 3:10 into the final period made it 5-2.
"I admit I was nervous when we went up 5-2, because last year in the championship game, we had a 5-2 lead in the third period, but they came back to beat us," said Barry.
Doherty got his second goal with 12:08 left and Maryland a man down, and Roberto capped the scoring with 3:20 to go, setting off a brief skirmish at the Maryland cage.
"Eastern Michigan will be a much different game, lot faster, more skating and not nearly as much rough stuff. They're good, but if we play well we can beat 'em," said Fogarty, Navy's leading scorer the past two seasons after giving up football at the academy.
Eastern Michigan is fifth in the club rankings of the American Collegiate Hockey Association and has clinched a berth in the ACHA nationals at North Dakota University.
Navy, ranked No. 11 by the ACHA, is not expected to crack the final eight, which is the national qualifier.
"We don't expect to get a bid this year, so this game [Eastern Michigan] is a big one to us," said Barry.