Joey Vonakis knew he would have to contribute if Calvert Hall was to defend its Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference hockey title last night. He just didn't know he would contribute so much.
The junior scored a hat trick and assisted on a goal as the Cardinals defeated Mount St. Joseph, 7-4, at Piney Orchard Ice Arena.
"I thought I'd be lucky to get one in a game like this," Vonakis said. "I never dreamed I'd get three."
The win validated Calvert Hall (7-2-1) as the new bully on the block in the tough A Conference. The Cards won the title last year in a mild upset, defeating the Gaels (7-3 this season), who had won the previous nine conference titles. Calvert Hall proved it was the better team last night.
"I'd be lying to you if I said we didn't talk about [winning another title]," Cardinals coach Mike Sharmek said. "We really wanted to win another championship so we could prove that last year was no fluke."
In the B Conference championship, St. Paul's (16-0) used a hat trick by James Tautkus to defeat St. Peter & Paul (8-3) from Easton, 8-3, to win its second consecutive championship after beating St. Mary's last year.
Gilman is not going to win the Maryland Independent Schools state tournament today. That honor will go to a team such as Mount St. Joseph, Archbishop Spalding or McDonogh. But the Greyhounds put five wrestlers in the quarterfinals who are determined to give their best efforts in their weight classes.
Leading the pack is senior Whitt Kelly, at 189 pounds, who has improved so much that he is the No. 2 seed, a major leap for a wrestler who finished seventh in this tournament a year ago.
Ahead of him is a match with DeMatha's Daniel Singh and then a tough semifinal before he can even think about the final and a possible meeting with the defending champion at 189, McDonogh's Alex Pagnotta. And Kelly isn't kidding himself.
"It's a solid weight class," Kelly said. "There are kids in here I've lost to and kids I've beaten. I'll have to be on my game in every match to be in the final. But this game is 90 percent heart."
Last week he upset Mount St. Joseph's Matt Mullett to reach the final.
"Our whole team has worked hard to get here," Kelly said. "Now we're going to go out there and do what we do and see what happens."
Mount St. Joseph, with 12 wrestlers in the quarterfinals, took the team lead 101-81.5 over Spalding.
The Gaels have three returning state champions, and all three - Danny Orem, Bobby Bowman and Karl Green - advanced, as did four other 2008 champions, Brett Przywara (Archbishop Curley), Andrew Bannister (Bishop McNamara), and Curtis Holmes and Pagnotta (McDonogh).