Coming into the Eastern Conference championship game with a 9-0-2 record on February 10, Severna Park knew they could compete with anyone, but they also had a tough task against South River. While the Falcons had the slight edge in goals per game (a league-leading seven compared to South River’s 6.27), the Seahawks allowed a league-low 1.45 goals per game compared to the Falcons’ 1.91.
With the teams posting similar stats throughout the season, a close game was expected, and that’s how it played out at Bowie Ice Arena.
Both goalies were put to work early in the matchup. Severna Park’s Alex Auchincloss had 16 saves in the first period, including a few near the end of the period as South River looked to score on a power play. Evan Reaser and Ryan Briller hustled to keep South River from scoring, diving across the ice to keep the puck away from their goal.
With 4:02 left in the second period, Johnny Clements passed to Josh Testerman, who found the goal to give Severna Park a 1-0 lead. Their celebration was short-lived. Less than a minute later, South River’s Kevin O’Brien scored on an assist from Ali Haan to tie the game. The offensive display continued with a third goal in as many minutes when Testerman added his second score to put Severna Park back in the lead before the end of the second period.
Riley Gresty of South River tied the game 2-2 early in the third period. Both teams battled for possession, as Auchincloss registered eight saves in the third period and South River’s Jacob Miller had two. With 3:38 left in regulation, Reaser broke the tie, scoring the go-ahead goal to give Severna Park a 3-2 lead.
As the buzzer sounded, players stormed the ice, sharing hugs and hoisting the trophy.
Severna Park head coach Eric St. Lawrence called South River a strong team with several Tier I players, so Severna Park had to match their intensity.
“We talked about getting a little more physical, getting to the puck quicker, because if you don’t versus South River, they will capitalize on it,” St. Lawrence said. “We had a little talk between the second and third periods about tilting the ice … get out of your zone hard, nothing soft, in the neutral zone, get across the red line, get their defensemen to turn around and tire out. We talked about trying to increase the lead, not just keep the lead. They played with great intensity, so I’m very proud of them.”
While the team as a unit demonstrated great intensity, Auchincloss had a standout performance with 29 saves.
“Our goalie stood on his head, coming back from an injury, after he played only a quarter of the season,” St. Lawrence said. “Another goalie [Holden Bates] … received an honorable mention in the conference for saves, so we have two good goalies. The knee isn’t bothering [Auchincloss] too much. He was super focused when he came in tonight, and I knew he was going to have a great game.”
State playoffs will start on February 22-25 at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. Winners will meet on March 7 in the quarterfinals, with the semifinals set for March 9 and the final March 11.
Reflecting after the win to South River, St. Lawrence was hopeful to have more moments to cherish before the season ends.
“We’re losing 11 seniors and I love seeing the fact they got to celebrate with their fans here, and we’re hoping to go deep,” he said.