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Churchill hockey escapes early hole, edges Wootton for fifth straight MSHL title

The Churchill hockey team celebrates its fifth straight MSHL title Friday in the Gardens Ice House in Laurel.
The Churchill hockey team celebrates its fifth straight MSHL title Friday in the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. (Julia Karron/The Washington Post)
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A freshman on last year’s team that claimed a fourth consecutive Maryland Student Hockey League championship, Churchill defender Matthew Danziger knew this year’s team would have to work differently to make it five in a row.

It was never more clear than in the Bulldogs’ loss to rival Wootton earlier this season. With that five-goal loss in mind, Danziger realized that slowing the Patriots’ speedy forwards would be key in Friday’s championship game.

At Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Danziger scored the eventual game-winning goal, and the Bulldogs weathered a late surge to grab their fifth consecutive MSHL championship with a 5-4 victory over Wootton.

“I just kind of made a move around one guy and threw it on net, and it happened to go bar down,” Danziger said of his goal.

The Bulldogs boast a young group after graduating 19 players from last year’s two varsity squads. Remaining calm under pressure Friday was of utmost importance.

Those nerves came to the fore early. Wootton’s Scott Collinson scored just over a minute in, and Daniel Tomashevsky put home a rebound after a John Billingsley breakaway to make it 2-0.

But Danziger and the Bulldogs (16-7-2) called on their championship experience to keep their teammates composed.

“The guys that have been here, we’re relying heavily on today,” Churchill assistant coach Sam Mrvos said before the game. “The benefit we have is nobody on Wootton has been here before.”

That experience paid dividends. Samuel Parsons slammed home a rebound moments after Tomashevsky’s goal, and Alex Durant’s soft wrist shot later in the period beat Wootton’s Colin Brick under his right pad. Churchill started the second period down 3-2, but Chance Begun tipped home a Hayden Farrand pass to make it 3-3 after two periods.

Entering the third, Churchill Coach Ray MacKenzie told his team to work together to slow Wootton’s top forwards.

“He said we need to just put it all on the line,” Danziger said.

The Bulldogs moved ahead when Sam Margel’s opportunistic rebound goal off a Brandon Chen point shot made it 4-3. Danziger’s insurance marker not long after proved necessary: With 51 seconds remaining, Billingsley danced the puck through a defender’s legs for his second goal of the night for Wootton (14-5-1).

In the dying seconds, Churchill wouldn’t relent, using a physical game on the boards and active sticks to clog Wootton’s passing lanes.

“To be able to refill and come right back to this level is incredible,” Mrvos said.

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