Anne Arundel County's Southern High has been the surprise of this week's Maryland Scholastic Hockey League's Tier II playoffs.
Then came Montgomery County's Sherwood to steal the show.
Sherwood used a size and numbers advantage to defeat Southern, 6-3, yesterday in the public schools final at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel.
Forward Mike Gardner scored five goals to pace the Arrows (14-0). Mike Villano scored twice for Southern (8-4-1).
The Arrows will advance to meet Mount St. Joseph's Tier II team for the overall championship, which will be held at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Gardens Ice House.
Playing with just nine skaters on its roster, Southern qualified for the playoffs in its last regular-season game, then upset Severna Park and Howard County champion Atholton to reach the final.
The Bulldogs played without their coach, Eric Mullin, and captain Will Durkee, who is also their leading scorer. Both were serving suspensions from Southern's win over Atholton last Friday night.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Villano said. "Making it this far was a big accomplishment. The players we have were good, quality players. We just didn't have enough."
Southern took the lead 58 seconds into the game when Villano scooped up a puck off the boards and put it past Sherwood goalie Teddy Lee.
Then Gardner went to work, scoring twice past Southern goalie Doug Lyles. He got the hat trick early in the second period when he stuffed a shot between Lyles' pad and the goal post to give the Arrows a 3-1 lead.
Southern responded. Forward Pat Hanske cleared a pass from behind the Sherwood goal and in the center of the ice found Dan Peaper, who blasted a shot past Lee to cut the lead to 3-2 with 11:10 left in the second period.
After a 10-minute misconduct penalty was assessed to Hanske at 6:43 of the second period, the Bulldogs began to run out of gas. Gardner's fourth goal at 4:21 of the second period was followed 25 seconds later by another by Adam Fishbein to put the game out of reach.
"We didn't have our captain. If we had, this would have been a totally different game," Mullin said. 'These kids have played with so much heart this week. I'm proud of them."