One thing should be stated up front: Kelci Lanthier has never been, nor will she ever be, solely responsible for the success or failure of Linganore's hockey team.
It just seems that way, considering the Lancers' fortunes have risen and fallen -- and risen again -- with the junior goaltender's presence. Call it the Kelci correlation.
"Kelci is our backbone," said senior Jason Klauka, who had two goals and two assists in last night's 7-2 win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League public school semifinals. "It was bad when she left."
When Lanthier first arrived at Linganore, the Lancers didn't have an incumbent at the game's most crucial position, so they gave the flexible freshman a shot. At first, the boys weren't so sure about a girl in goal. But such skepticism disappeared when none of the Lancers could put the puck past her.
"I heard [they were skeptical], but they caught on pretty quick," said Lanthier, who made 19 saves last night at the Gardens Ice House. "Now it's just like I'm one of the guys."
The Lancers took such a liking to Lanthier and her play during that season -- which culminated in a playoff appearance -- that several decided not to play the following year when she attended a Canadian prep school, leaving Linganore without an experienced goalie.
With a roster of just 11 players, the Lancers faced long odds. Then, Klauka's season ended after six games when he broke his arm for the second year in a row. Not surprisingly, the Lancers finished the season 2-10.
This year, Lanthier returned to Linganore, as did a healthy Klauka and an influx of new talent. Predictably, the results have been dramatic.
The Lancers (15-0) racked up the league's best regular season record and Klauka led all players in points (52).
Even when Lanthier missed the first four weeks of the season after suffering stress fractures in both legs during field hockey season, the Lancers' depth and talent carried them through.
When Lanthier (2.53 goals against average) was ready to come back, freshman goaltender Mark Grzybinski graciously returned to the bench, even though he went undefeated during his starting stint and happens to be the coach's son.
"When she came back, he went back to his backup role," said Coach Pete Grzybinski. "He knew right away it was going to happen."
An Amazing Run:Bethesda-Chevy Chase (10-4-1) became an improbable participant in the state tournament by winning three games to claim the South Region title as a No. 4 seed. The Barons then knocked off Severna Park, last year's runner-up, in the quarterfinals.
Up Next:Top-seeded Linganore faces second-seeded South River on Monday at 5 p.m. The Seahawks defeated Glenelg with a pair of goals in the final five minutes after the Gladiators had rallied from a three-goal deficit.