Four weeks ago, after his team had just lost the last game of the season 12-4 Northwest Hockey Coach Ed Hughes was asked with the goal of the season had been for his team. His answer was, “To become a team.”
Four weeks and two playoff wins later Hughes team was playing for the League Championship in the Maryland Student Hockey – Montgomery Division 2 against Sherwood High School in Cabin John Ice Rink packed with hundreds of rowdy hockey fans from both schools.
The Jags lost 5-1. However, the final score is not indicative of the thrilling game the young Jags club played against an older and more experienced Sherwood Warriors club. Sherwood ended the regular season 12-1-1, and the Cinderella Jags finished the regular season at 4-9-1.
The Northwest Hockey Club is in its first year of play as a stand-alone club at the school. Hockey is not an official sport in Montgomery County Public Schools, so it is officially a club, not a recognized sport. The students must pay their equipment and ice time, and the coaches are volunteers.
While the Jags struggled during the regular season, but as any hockey fan knows: The playoffs are different.
Northwest got hot and beat the two teams based in Washington D.C. in the playoffs. The Jags beat he DC Stars, a team made up of students from various high schools in DC by a score of 9-5 back on Feb. 9 and beat a team from Wilson High School 5-4 on Feb. 14 to earn their spot in the League Championship against Sherwood.
The Warriors got on the board first with as Samuel Rudnick scored the first of his two goals at the 9:08 point in the first period, on an assist from Dylan Jacob. Jacob would get three helpers in the game.
Sherwood led 1-0 at the end of the first period of a hard-hitting and physical affair which was a few pushing and shoving matches in between combatants in the opening period. Despite being outshot 12 to 6 by the Warriors in the first, the Jags were only down one goal, thanks to the goaltending of Matthew Eldridge. In the title game, Eldridge made 25 saves and had more than a few outstanding plays in net.
In the second period, the Jags were able to get force more play in the Sherwood zone. The Jags also increased their shooting output. However, they were still outshot 14 to 9. The Warriors scored again at the 9:28 mark as Steven Blum found the back of the net, after passes from Dylan Jacob and Sam Rudnick. Sherwood extended the lead to two goals.
The Jags would get on the board one minute and 20 seconds later as Andrei Bazhin intercepted an errant pass in the neutral zone to create breakaway from himself. Bazhin would beat Sherwood goalie Ben Gruber to cut the lead back to one goal. Gruber led the league with a goals-against average of 2.57 and was second overall with save percentage of .891 during the regular season. The unassisted even-strength goal was Bazhin’s seventh of the season.
With the game close at 2-1 the rink was rocking as students from both schools made sure their team knew they had support as the third period started.
At the 9:36 mark the Jags would get called for a tripping penalty, just the second and final penalty called on Northwest during the game. It would lead to Rudnick netting his second goal of the game, on a pass from Jacob to extend the lead to 3-1. The goal came at 34 seconds into the Warrior’s power play at 9:02 in the third.
The Jags would fire six shots at Gruber, but he was able to stop all of them in the third. The Warriors would get the fourth point on an unassisted shorthanded goal from Steven Blum at the 2:49 mark. The Warriors’ Simon Gosselin put the icing on the Sherwood cake with a fifth goal with just 52 seconds remaining in the game to seal the championship for the club from Olney.
Four weeks ago, the Jags’ goal was to turn a group of underclassmen, led by two seniors into a hockey team. Friday night the team with four regular-season wins held an experienced Sherwood team to a 2-1 lead until the final nine minutes of the game.
Goal accomplished. Next year the Jags will be setting their sights quite a bit higher.
Top: Northwest’s Brendan Lynch (23) and Jason Steinberg (7) attempt to clear the puck in front of Jags goaltender Matthew Eldridge, as Sherwood’s Matt Postorino (15).
Next: The Sherwood Warriors celebrate after scoring their fifth goal to seal the victory.
Next: Jags Tristan Meyer (28) and Andrei Bazhin (8) skate after the puck as goaltender Matthew Eldridge readies for another shot.
Next: Northwest’s Andrei Bazhin (8) skates on a breakaway and scores the Jags’ only goal of the game.
Next: Northwest goalie Matthew Eldridge denies Sherwood’s Samuel Rudnick in the second period of the championship game.
Next: The Jags’ Andrew Zhang with the puck.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.
All of the photos in this article and hundreds more from this game are available at the Germantown Pulse Sports Photo Shop.