For a lot of teams in the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League, finding a capable goalie can be difficult, but for No. 2 Stone Bridge, finding somebody to stand between the pipes hasn’t been an issue.
The Bulldogs top goalie is junior Martin Trivieri, whose 0.8 goals against average is the best among NVSHL goalies that have played in at least three games. When Trivieri sits, he’s replaced by sophomore Colin McNelis, owner of the second best goals against average in the league. Four of Stone Bridge’s nine wins have come via shutouts, two each from Trivieri and McNelis. Trivieri has allowed just four goals in five games this season while McNelis has held his opponents to four goals in four games.
Trivieri said that when he’s on the bench, he tries to be a resource for McNelis and vice versa, offering encouragement and advice on opponents’ tendencies. Their close friendship makes splitting starts easier to swallow, but it doesn’t keep the two from attempting to one up each other with impressive performances.
“We definitely make each other more competitive, like if he gets a shutout that game, I’m definitely gunning for the shutout the next one,” McNelis said. “You don’t want to get an understudy job.”
Stone Bridge’s depth at goalie is evidence of the geographic realities in the NVSHL. Teams like Stone Bridge benefit greatly from being located near the home rinks of club teams, which tend to attract and develop a large pool of high-caliber players. Stone Bridge, which is located just three and a half miles from the Ashburn Ice House, draws most of its roster from the club team housed there, including Trivieri and McNelis.
As impressive as the Bulldogs’ tandem of goalies has been this season, the Stone Bridge offense might be even better. The Bulldogs have kept opposing goalies busy with two of the league’s top three point leaders, including Trevor Mack, who leads the NVSHL with 34 points this season.
“Our team does a really great job of putting pucks in the back of their net and our defense is pretty strong, but when those guys do get through, me and Marty usually are pretty on top of what they do,” McNelis said. “I’ve never really played on a team where we get shutouts every other game.”
No. 7 Briar Woods will take the ice against a near-perfect statistical mirror image of itself Sunday night when it faces off against No. 10 Langley.
Barring a loss Friday against the provisional team from Potomac Falls and Heritage, the Saxons will enter Sunday’s game undefeated in NVSHL play. The Falcons, who play O’Connell Friday night, haven’t lost since falling 1-0 against Oakton on Nov. 16. A 4-4 tie against No. 8 Woodbridge is the only other blemish on Briar Woods’ season.
Both Briar Woods and Langley have been stingy on defense this season. The Saxons have allowed just 12 goals in seven league games this season, the second fewest in the league. Briar Woods has allowed 13 goals in their eight NVSHL games, tied for third fewest in the league. Excluding the Falcons’ tie against Woodbridge, neither team has allowed more than three goals in a game this season.
Offensively, both teams feature top scorers with 13 goals in league play this season. Drew Schneider, Langley’s leading scorer this season, is also the team leader in points with 21. Justin Plumhoff, the Falcons top scorer, has 16 points on the season and is one of five Briar Woods players with double-digit points. The Saxons have four players with 10 points or more.
Wootton hasn’t enjoyed much success against Montgomery County nemesis Whitman the past two seasons. Due to a quirk of the schedule, the Patriots now need a major reversal of fortunes.
Third-place Wootton (5-5-1) will face second-place Whitman (7-4-3) in Friday’s regular season finale. If the Patriots maintain the No. 3 seed, their reward would be another rematch against the Vikings on Monday, in a conference tournament semifinal.
That would mean two games in four days — with a lot on the line — against a team that has won its past four meetings. Defending conference champion Whitman has taken those victories by a combined five goals, including 3-2 wins on Dec. 21 and in last year’s Montgomery semifinals.
“For years and years we kind of had the upper hand,” said Wootton Coach Dave Evans, now in his 18th season. “But the last few times we just haven’t gotten a goal when we needed it.”
The Patriots won back-to-back Maryland Scholastic Hockey League championships in 2008 and 2009 but haven’t won the conference since. After their second straight season hovering around the .500 mark, they are comfortable with the underdog label.
“I don’t think that fazes our players as much as people think it would, because we’ve gotten so used to it,” senior captain Joe Kelly said. “We kind of use it as a chip on our shoulder to motivate us, that we have something to prove every single game.”
That chip is particularly weighty against the Vikings after all of the recent close calls, including the first meeting this season, in which Wootton managed nine more shots.
Another loss Friday, paired with a Walter Johnson win over Sherwood, would drop Wootton into the No. 4 seed and a matchup with top seed and fifth-ranked Churchill (14-3), which has beaten the Patriots by a combined 23-1 in two meetings. That makes Whitman a more desirable first-round opponent, if still a significant obstacle.
“Our team is certainly capable of going out and clobbering Whitman, honestly,” Evans said. “But at the same time, it could just as easily go the other way.”
In order to turn the tables, the Patriots will need to correct some of the issues that have plagued them against the Vikings the last two seasons.
“Fundamental mistakes in the past have really killed us, like not backchecking or not playing hard in the corners,” Kelly said. “That’s something that’s always gone their way and something we know we have to be better at the next two games.”
In Evans’s opinion, success in the first Whitman contest should drive success in a second. He saw how the experience of the 2008 championship helped spur a repeat, despite losing 10 players to graduation.
This year’s Patriots are extremely young, putting confidence at a premium. Evans thinks that’s a necessary ingredient for tapping into their potential.
“This is certainly a team that if things go right for them, they could surprise some people,” he said, “But I don’t know that we’re there yet.”
Landon handed Gonzaga its second local loss of the season with a 2-0 victory over the Eagles. . . . Atholton, last year’s MSHL champion, will look to defend its Howard County title on Friday night against the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Glenelg and Marriotts Ridge. . . . The last weekend of NVSHL play features games between No. 10 Langley and No. 7 Briar Woods as well as second-ranked Stone Bridge’s toughest game of the season against Broad Run.
1. Gonzaga (17-4-1) LW: 1
2. Stone Bridge (9-0) LW: 2
3. Spalding (12-2) LW: 4
4. Landon (13-3-2) LW: 6
5. Churchill (14-3) LW: 3
6. Atholton (9-1-1) LW: 5
7. Briar Woods (6-1-1) LW: 7
8. Woodbridge (8-0-1) LW: 8
9. DeMatha (14-13-3) LW: 9
10. Langley (7-1) LW: 10