Hard work, passion and a love for the game took the Severna Park Ice Hockey team on a journey this year that ended with the state championship trophy.
In the climactic moments of the state championship game in Laurel on Feb. 25, Nick Bondra landed the last leg of a hat trick past the goalie of reigning champions Washington County to seize the game, four minutes into overtime.
Victorious, the whole team took to the ice, clustering together while clutching the trophy they had all fought so hard to gain. Photographer Ron Siefert captured that moment of glory.
But it was a hard road to the championship. Just two years ago, there weren’t enough players in Severna Park to form a full ice hockey team. Instead, a co-op team was formed from some of the best players in the area, including students from Severna Park High School, Severn Academy and Chesapeake High School in Pasadena.
Because they were a first-year co-op team, they weren’t allowed to enter the playoffs, despite earning a 10-0 record in 2012. But this year—was the time to shine, said team manager Patrick Weadon.
“This year we decided we were going to basically prove that we were one of the best teams out there. And we were able to do that, and that’s a wonderful thing. But it didn’t come without a lot of hard work, leadership and determination,” Weadon said.
Putting together players from rival high schools was believed to be a hurdle, but Weadon quickly realized that the students cared more about the game than the supposed rivalry.
“The kids really came together. They began to call the team Spockey,” he said, noting the S and P stood for Severna Park.
The turning point in the season for Weadon wasn’t a victory, but a defeat.
When the team faced rivals Landon School in Rockville, they lost 2-1, but did so without having its two best players on the ice that night. The spirit in the locker room after the game was triumphant, despite the loss.
“Even though we lost, it was such an incredible moral victory. In the locker room, you would have thought we won the World Series. That's when we came together as a team,” he said.
In the final game of the season, the championship match against Washington County, Severna Park took an early lead, 4-1. But Washington came back, and turned the tables to create a tense matchup.
Team coach Dennis Gaudet described the highlights of that final game in vivid detail in an interview:
“After two periods, we were up 4-1 dominating play. After 2nd. period ice cut, we came out determined to continue pressing play, be aggressive, and not to give Washington County any life in the 3rd period. Washington County, a talented, now desperate team took it to us early in the 3rd scoring quickly and swinging the momentum of the game in their favor.
Nervous energy was settling in, SP players over extended and took two bad penalties, in which Washington county added another two goals. Game was tied 4-4 with minutes to play. We took our team time out to regroup and re-establish our game discipline, focus, and stay within our game plan. Next goal wins the Maryland State Championship! Play continued on into the first 10 minute overtime period, Washington County carrying the play, getting the better opportunities, Travis Danko, our First Team All State goaltender, stood strong, steering away shot after shot.
At 4:52 of the first overtime period, Baily Pottinger picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, passed to Ryan Frey, crossing the blue line, cutting to the middle of the ice, Frey feathered a pass to Nick Bondra, in the low slot, and Bondra on a second chance poked the puck past Jeremy Benda for the Championship winning goal.”
In 2011, there wasn’t enough interest in Severna Park for a dedicated school team. But now, after gaining the state trophy, will there be renewed interest? Weadon said it’s probable.
“I would say there is a very good chance that we will start to see an increase in interest. I think there will be a lot of people who will want to be a part of it in future,” Weadon said.
For a photo gallery of the championship game, check Siefert’s SmugMug.com page here.