When Briar Woods lost to Stone Bridge in the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League championship game last March, the Falcons’ roster did not feature a single senior.
Nearly every Briar Woods player who took the ice for Friday’s title game at Kettler Capitals Iceplex knew what it felt like to lose a championship, and they did not want to experience that feeling again.
As the Falcons celebrated their first NVHSL title following a 7-2 win over Langley, the joy on their faces was evident — and so was their relief.
“Last year was devastating,” Falcons senior and alternate captain Brendan Walsh said. “Last year we had no seniors on the team, so everyone knew what it felt like. Everyone wanted to win. Everyone had experienced the feeling of losing and did not want to feel that again.”
That singular focus drove Briar Woods through its torrid stretch run this winter. The Falcons avenged last year’s title title game loss to No. 2 Stone Bridge in Wednesday’s semifinals and dispatched the Saxons — one of only two teams to defeat them in the regular season — in the final.
Langley (11-2) opened the scoring midway through the first period, but Luke Benitez answered for Briar Woods just more than one minute later and from there, the Falcons were off. After the Saxons’ first tally, Briar Woods (9-2-1) ripped off five straight goals, including the first two goals of the postseason from Benitez and two more from senior Kim Rajalin, a transfer student from Finland.
The championship capped an impressive run to close the season for the Falcons, who won six of their final seven games, including the playoffs. The lone loss in that stretch came Feb. 10 against Langley, when the Saxons defeated Briar Woods, 2-1.
“We knew what to expect from them,” said Walsh, who was also honored as the NVSHL player of the year during the second intermission. “They expected that they had a chance to beat us because they already beat us during the regular season, and we wanted to prove to them that they didn’t have a chance.”
That Feb. 10 loss also gave the Falcons valuable knowledge about the tendencies of Saxons goalie Ryan Framinan, who gave up five of the seven goals Friday, including two five-hole shots in the second period.
“We learned that you got to make their goalie move side to side and shoot low,” junior Briar Woods captain Justin Plumhoff said. “He’s a tall goalie, you got to shoot low, and it worked for us. I think six of our seven goals were on the ice.”
The Falcons also got goals from Walsh, who gave them a 2-1 lead in the first period, Bobby VanDusen and Kevin McDonald. Kim and forward Drew Schneider were the goal scorers for the Saxons.