Southern continued its amazing run toward a Maryland Scholastic Hockey League title last night, defeating Atholton, 4-2, in a league semifinal at Wells Ice Rink in College Park.
The Bulldogs (8-3-1) advance to today's public school final, where they will meet Montgomery County's Sherwood, a 5-2 winner over Walkersville in the other semifinal. The championship will be played at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel at 4 p.m.
Rob Durkee, a freshman, paced the Bulldogs with two goals.
Of all the obstacles that the Bulldogs had to overcome, the biggest might have come from an unexpected source: referee John Niceli.
Niceli called 24 penalties in the game (12 on each team), and both coaches asserted that his tight calling of the game cost their team the game.
The biggest penalties came with 3:02 left in the first period.
With the Bulldogs leading 3-1, Southern's Will Durkee was hit with a high check that crumpled him to the ice. When he got up, he voiced his displeasure that no penalty was called. At that point, Niceli assessed Durkee with a 10- minute misconduct. Mellin, who had come onto the ice to check on Durkee, then began to question Niceli. The referee then threw out Mellin. When Durkee questioned that call, he also was thrown out.
Mellin continued to complain, and then was assessed another game misconduct. The penalties mean neither will be available for today's game, and if Southern advances to the Tier II title game Monday, Mellin will not be available then, either.
"That was ridiculous," said Mellin. "I asked him for an explanation, and he didn't give me one. He owes me that. That set me off."
Mellin was more upset that Durkee, who is Southern's captain, will not be available today.
"All he did was question his call," said Mellin of Durkee. "For that, he can't play in a championship game?"
Atholton coach Jim Brumsted was assessed with a game misconduct for arguing after the game ended.