Crab Pot stirs up college hockey passion


A lot of high school and college basketball is on tap again this weekend, but for those of you looking for other types of sports entertainment, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Severna Park YMCA are the places to be tomorrow and Sunday.

The 17th annual Crab Pot Ice Hockey Tournament is set for tomorrow and Sunday at Navy's Dahlgren Hall, and the second annual Parents for Swimming in Anne Arundel County High School Championships begin 3 p.m. Sunday at the Severna Park YMCA pool.

And guess what? Both events are free.

On the ice, the battle for that dingy, black 25-gallon Crab Pot Trophy starts at 1 p.m. tomorrow with host Navy (11-3-1) taking on Towson State, followed by defending champion Eastern Michigan and College Militaire Royal of St. Jean, Quebec, at 4 p.m.

Patterned after the Beanpot played annually in Boston, the Crab Pot consolation game will be 1 p.m. Sunday with tomorrow's winners meeting for the championship at 4 p.m.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association, which rates club teams nationally, has Eastern Michigan No. 5, Towson State No. 11 and Navy No. 13. The top eight ranked teams advance in early March to the National ACHA Club Tournament in Iowa.

Eastern Michigan's Eagles, led by junior forward Scott Ruffing, edged Navy, 5-4, in last year's Crab Pot and come into Annapolis as the favorite to repeat. Ruffing scored the game-winner with 14:29 left in the game.

"They're loaded, really not in our league," said Navy coach Jim Barry. "Eastern Michigan is really something, and it will take quite an effort for us to beat them and win the Crab Pot because we are so young."

With nine plebes and four of them key players, Barry is putting his youngest Navy team onto the ice in his six years as head coach. Therewere were only six plebes on last year's squad.

Despite this year's inexperience, Navy (8-1 league) is only a half game behind first-place Delaware (9-1) in the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association.

Wing Joe Carney and center Charlie Case are two first-year players playing a lot. Plebe defensemen Nathan Denman and Pat Hailey also have contributed.

Case had a goal in Sunday's home victory over Worcester (Mass.) Poly Institute, as Navy avenged a loss in New England the week before by the identical score of 6-4.

Junior wing Brian Erickson scored the last two goals in the Sunday win over WPI and is one of several key veterans showing the plebes the way on the ice.

Other experienced players on the wings are seniors Rob Doherty and Jimmy Swanski and junior Mike Murnane. Sophomore Sam Decastro, who started as a plebe, has sparkled in goal.

Seeking its first Crab Pot since 1991 and its sixth overall, Navy meets a Towson squad that it beat, 4-1, earlier this season. The Mids should be in Sunday's final against the winner of CMR and Eastern Michigan, which Barry calls "a tossup."

Navy skated past West Chester (Pa.), 5-3, to win the Crab Pot in 1991, but dropped a 6-5 heart-breaker in overtime to archrival University of Maryland in 1992 and last year's one-goal decision to Eastern Michigan.

Barry advises everyone to show up early both days because the CrabPot regularly draws in excess of 2,000 fans at Dahlgren Hall.

"We've been averaging about 800 people for our games this season and the Crab Pot always draws the most," Barry said. "There is definitely a lot of interest in hockey in our area."

Swimming interest is also up, as evident in the 210 high school swimmers who signed up for the second annual county championships Sunday at the Severna Park YMCA.

Severna Park, coached by Pat Scheier, was last year's team champion with Christian Lenahan its lone individual champion.

Lenahan won the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 49.31 seconds to pace Severna Park to its first-place total of 390 points. Runner-up Old Mill had 270.

"We had 130 swimmers in last year's competition, but we've added the private schools [Severn, Archbishop Spalding and St. Mary's] this year and expect 210 swimmers to participate," said Parents For Swimming coordinator Don Ramsbottom.

"Once again we're using the national high school swimming format and plan to award medals through 12th place in individual events and through sixth place in the relays."

Warm-ups begin at 2 p.m. with competition to start at 3 p.m.

Parents for Swimming in Anne Arundel County was formed last year to conduct county championships representing all high school communities.

Led by Ramsbottom, the volunteer organization hopes to be sanctioned by the county Board of Education with swimming added to the high school athletic program.

Although a few high school principals still are opposed to the competition and for the second year in a row no teams are representing North County and Southern, the event has become a huge success. County Executive Bob Neall attended last year's championships.

Prince George's County sanctions a public high school program that began 16 years ago with college opportunities abounding for swimmers.

Thanks to Parents for Swimming, it might happen in Anne Arundel County one day.

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