The South River hockey team appears to be set for a strong run in 2008, considering that it is losing only one senior to graduation.
But that senior, Andrew Devore, had a big role in making sure 2007 went pretty well for the Seahawks, too.
Devore had three goals and two assists in a 9-8 victory over top-seeded Linganore in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League public school title game at Gardens Ice House in Laurel on Monday.
The championship reflected the progress South River (15-1) has made in recent seasons. It lost in the quarterfinals two years ago and in the semifinals last season.
The Lancers (15-1) entered Monday's game undefeated. Devore's teammates knew what was at stake for them -- and him.
"They all knew I wanted to go out on top," Devore said. "And it's nice knowing we can do it again next year."
Devore registered a team-high 37 points (27 goals, 10 assists) during the regular season and added 11 goals in four postseason games.
Well-spoken with adults and well-liked by his teammates, Devore was the leader in the locker room and on the ice all season, giving the Seahawks even more reason to appreciate winning the title before he graduated.
"To go out your senior year with a state championship," said junior forward Adam Mitchell, "there's probably no better feeling than that."
Mitchell had plenty to do with helping Devore experience that feeling. He had five points -- four goals, one assist -- Monday, including the game-winner with 55 seconds remaining. Mitchell registered 28 points (19 goals, 11 assists) in only six regular season games.
As a player on the Washington Junior Nationals, Mitchell had to miss half of the MSHL season because of mandatory practices with the Atlantic Junior Hockey League team. But his continued participation with the Seahawks went a long way toward making them a strong team next season.
After Monday's win, he said he will "most likely" keep playing for South River.
"It would be great if he did," Seahawks Coach Bryan Brady said. "But I understand if he doesn't. He'd be going to better places."
Brady will have Devore's brother Chris back as a potent weapon next season. The sophomore had 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) during the regular season and five (one goal, four assists) in the championship game.
Fellow sophomore Matt Gregoire (28 regular season points) and junior Brad Hewick (19 regular season points) also will be counted on as offensive threats, and freshman Connor McCabe (2.91 goals against average) will be back with more experience in goal.
"Next year we have all the same kids, maybe even more to come help," Chris Devore said. "Losing my brother is going to make a difference, I know that. But I still think we can do it again."