Spalding knots up top-ranked Landon

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 6:19 PM

Spalding players and coaches are going to become pretty popular among others from the Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League before the league's postseason tournament begins late next week. The Cavaliers may have cracked the toughest problem faced by teams around the Washington area this season - how to stop top-ranked Landon.

Spalding tied the Bears, 9-9, on Feb. 3, marking the only time in 20 games that Landon has not won, but also the only time a team has scored more than twice on the Bears.

The result was even more surprising because Spalding is such a young team; its core is an 11-member sophomore class.

Spalding coach Bob Trantin said he spoke with coaches at Bullis and St. Albans, among others who have faced Landon, and took little tips from each. The Cavaliers tried to neutralize Landon's biggest asset, its speed, by clogging the neutral zone and preventing the Bears from breaking their forwards out on long feeds. Spalding also tried to seal off the area from behind the net, another place Landon likes to exploit.

"Those kids can fly and you have to slow them down," Trantin said. "We played aggressively in the defensive zone."

At the same time, though, Spalding had to find the back of the net, too, and their sophomore line of Colin O'Neill, C.J. Dyer and Brennan McNeally scored five goals. Dyer, in fact, put in the tying tally with 40 seconds left on a rebound of shot by John Sage.

Spalding enjoyed leads of 1-0, 3-1 and 7-4, and that showed Trantin the importance of sustaining an attack against Landon.

"You take one shift off and that team is going to eat you alive," he said.

Stars out in Montgomery

The Montgomery Hockey Conference held its first all-star game Tuesday night at Wheaton Ice Arena, showing both how far one of the most hockey-hungry counties has come and where it hopes to go in the near future.

Walter Johnson's Vinnie Peratrovich scored twice and Churchill's Curtis Milkman added a goal and two assists to lead the West team to a 6-5 victory over the East, which got goals from Wootton's P.J. Hall and Poolesville's Nick Yarmas. In all, players from 10 of the 11 schools represented reached the scoresheet, proving a critical point to league officials.

"Everyone seemed to be astonished by the skill level," said conference commissioner Paul Lofgren, "and that's really the key."

Lofgren said expanding interest and participation beyond the schools that have long embraced hockey - Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Churchill, Walter Johnson, Wootton, and Whitman - has been crucial. Since schools do not sponsor hockey programs, which are operated independently, teams often have to be creative to attract attention. That holds for both for players and for support.

"The other schools don't yet recognize that it's a big sport," Lofgren said, "but they're starting to. Now, we're on the morning announcements and that's big."

One thing that would go a long way to giving hockey an established presence, Lofgren said, is the establishment next season of "Friday Night Hockey." He hopes to secure ice time each Friday night from 6 to 9 p.m. at three county rinks - Rockville Ice Arena, Cabin John, and Wheaton Ice Arena.

"It's a niche," Lofgren said. "We'll lose [some fans] to basketball, but for others who don't go there, let them come out and see what we have. It can be a great thing if we get students to come out."

© 2011 The Washington Post Company