Way back in September, when Broadneck held its first practice of the season, senior goaltender Blake Foster looked around at his new teammates and expected to win only about half of the team's games.

Broadneck lost two of its first three games and seemed to be on pace for Foster's predictions. But then Broadneck, playing in its first varsity season in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Tier II, beat Old Mill, 5-2, on Jan. 24, avenging two lopsided losses in preseason scrimmages.

"After our first game, we lost like 8-3, and we were playing like it was our first year," Foster said. "But then, something happened, and somehow we started playing like a team, and it really took off from there."

Three weeks later, the Bruins qualified for the MSHL playoffs as the third seed from the Eastern Conference. After three playoff wins -- over Easton, Severna Park and Howard, all more established teams -- Broadneck found itself in the MSHL Tier II Public School title game, played last Wednesday at the Laurel Ice Gardens after much rescheduling.

The Bruins lost, 6-4, but the disappointment from the loss was tempered by a profound sense of accomplishment after the game.

"This was our first ever championship game, this was our one shot, and we wanted to make the most of it," said Foster, who made 18 saves to keep Broadneck in the game. "This was our first year ever in varsity, and we went to the finals -- that's huge for us as we try to establish the program in our school and for years to come."

Snow, and Anne Arundel County Public School policy, temporarily derailed Broadneck's unexpectedly successful season as it approached climax.

Unlike most teams in the MSHL, ice hockey is an officially sanctioned activity at Broadneck, and after AACPS cancelled all after-school activities on Feb. 26, the team could not travel to the title game. The game was rescheduled for the next day, but again, Broadneck (8-5) was disallowed from traveling to the game.

Because Broadneck could not play, the game was initially ruled a forfeit, and Sherwood was declared champion, advancing to face Good Counsel in the Chesapeake Cup, a game between the Tier II public and private school champions.

What had become a dream season was quickly slipping into an ice-ridden nightmare.

"Once I heard what they were doing, I went home and was probably one of the first 10 people to e-mail [MSHL Commissioner] Don Gensler," senior defender Ryan Atkinson said. "I wrote him a novel of an e-mail, getting our points across that the game should be played."

The game finally was played last week, and at first, it looked like Broadneck was going to surprise yet another opponent. After goals by forwards Tim Harris and Pat Wagner, Broadneck jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Foster helped the Bruins protect that lead, as he stopped seven shots in the first period alone. Sherwood finally got a few past him, and the game was tied at 3 midway through the second period.

Sherwood, the defending Tier II Public School champions, would outscore the Bruins 3-1 over the final 25 minutes of the game to defend its title.

Even with the loss, the team was able to appreciate its improvement over the long season.

"At the beginning of the year, I didn't think we were going to get this far at all," said senior forward Cole Divelbliss, who scored twice in the championship game and finished with 10 goals. "A lot of people didn't think we were going to be that good. I had some doubts. But we made it to the playoffs, and after that I thought we could go all the way."