After running into a River Hill defender -- sometimes two -- for much of last night's game at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Howard winger Rob Ross must have been shocked to find himself with the puck all alone in front of Hawks goalie Joel Ord.
Ross simply wristed the puck past Ord's stick with 31.8 seconds left in the third period, tying the game at 3 and sealing a probable high seed for the Lions in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Tier II playoffs.
The tie keeps Howard (4-1-1) a game ahead of 3-1-2 River Hill, which wasted a spectacular performance by center B.J. Radhe, who accounted for a goal and two assists.
"I am pleased with a tie because they needed a win to pass us," Lions coach Michael Rand said. "It wasn't a do-or-die situation, but it was important."
So important that with less than a minute remaining, Rand pulled goalie Ronny Spano for an extra attacker. Seconds later, defender Erik Dickson slid a pass to Ross at the side of the River Hill net, and he buried the shot, setting off a jubilant celebration.
"The guy came off, I think he tried to pick a guy off in front of the net," Ross recalled. "I just walked in front, picked the open side and shot it."
Ross also had a hand in Howard's first goal. While killing a two-minute interference call against defender Brian Moscoe, Ross intercepted an errant pass and flashed down the left side with winger Jeff Riley on a two-on-one break.
Ross passed the puck to Riley, who backhanded it past Ord at 7: 34 -- a second after the River Hill power play ended.
The Hawks tied the game with 15 seconds left in the first period on some tough corner work by winger P.J. Kelley and Radhe, who fed a wide-open Brooks Brunsted in front of Spano. The defender tucked the shot underneath Spano's right arm for the goal.
Spano's habit of giving up rebounds proved costly with eight minutes left in the second period. The goalie handled a wrist shot by River Hill winger Robert Ginsberg, but left the puck in the crease, where Radhe had plenty of time to tap it into the net for a 2-1 lead.
The Lions tied it 95 seconds later when center Mark Olson won a faceoff back to defender Dan Fritz, who blistered a shot from the point past Ord.
The Hawks took a 3-2 lead with 68 seconds left in the period on a nifty play by Kelley. Defender Duncan Brooks passed the puck behind the net to Radhe, who sent it in front of Spano. The puck laid between a mass of feet until Kelley -- parallel to the ice -- tapped it in.
Radhe called the tie "disappointing."
"If we got the win and won the next game, we could've gotten a bye in the first round of the playoffs," he said. "Now we definitely have to win the next game."
Pub Date: 2/09/99