A season ago, it took the Landon School ice hockey team just eight seconds to score its first goal in the Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League championship game en route to an 8-2 victory against DeMatha Catholic.
In Friday night's title game rematch against the Stags, it took a little bit longer — 297 seconds to be precise — but the result was the same. The Bears controlled the tempo and earned a 5-1 victory at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel. Landon became the first team to win multiple championships in the five-year history of the league.
“I couldn't ask for anything more than this storybook ending,” said senior captain forward Matt Potolicchio, whose team went 41-2-1 over the past two seasons. “We stumbled a little bit during the regular season, but we wanted to prove we are the best team in the region. We did that tonight for a second straight year.”
The No. 1 Bears (20-2) had gone 36 consecutive games without a loss prior to suffering two regular season losses within a week earlier this month, including a 3-2 setback to archrival Interstate Athletic Conference foe Georgetown Prep.
“That loss was good for us,” Landon coach Chan Gammill said of the regular season finale against the Little Hoyas. “The boys had become a little complacent. We lost to the Hill School [Pa.] a few days earlier, but the loss to Prep, especially since it was Prep, kind of opened the kids' eyes and they refocused. Tonight they played a full 45 minutes and never let up.”
Isaac Porter put the Bears on the board first at the 10:03 mark of the opening period, but DeMatha's Garrett Hasken answered on the power play a little more than four minutes later with a booming slap shot from the point that goalie Sam Kroll (17 saves) had no chance to stop.
But any momentum DeMatha (13-21-6) gained was not held for long. Ian Schneider put the Bears back on top just 72 seconds later.
“Even though they came back and tied it, that first goal was huge,” Porter said. “It wasn't eight seconds, but the goal was still early and gave us all the momentum and allowed us to dictate the game. We kept it simple, got the puck deep and got it to the net. This, to go back-to-back, is just amazing.”
Potolicchio scored on the power play early in the second period and the Bears, who limited DeMatha to just six shots following 12 in the first period, began to roll all four lines. David Lackner collected his own rebound and beat DeMatha goalie Stephan Fernandez (36 saves) with 4:46 remaining before intermission.
Senior Max Greenwald scored on the rush for the final tally off a tape-to-tape pass from Potolicchio.
“Ever since the playoffs started and Max and I have been linemates, it has been tic-tack-toe,” Potolicchio said. “Max and I have been playing together forever and what a way to end our playing days together.”
Added Gammill: “The senior class led by Matt, Connor [Meike] and Max has been tremendous. It started with a loss in the semifinals three years ago and ended with consecutive championships. They have set the bar high.”
Meanwhile, the Stags, who needed two thrilling victories (a nine-round shootout and a two-goal rally in the final two minutes) to advance to the title game, were unable to find any consistent offense rhythm against the Bears.
“We faced a ton of adversity to just get here and a lot of the kids were playing hurt,” said DeMatha coach Tony MacAulay. “The players stuck to the game plan. I don't think we could've done anything different. But a few bounces here or there, it could've been different.