This rivalry heating up on ice Spalding and St. Mary's make hockey debuts

December 18, 1992|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer

Archbishop Spalding and St. Mary's high schools have established an intense, albeit friendly, rivalry over the last two decades.

Since the time Spalding opened its doors to boys in 1974, the Cavaliers and Saints have matched their athletic prowess on a variety of surfaces. The two parochial schools have met on the turf, on the hardwood and on the wrestling mats.

Earlier this month, they added ice to the list.

Spalding claimed a 6-4 victory over the Saints on Dec. 3 in the first ice hockey game for both schools, giving the Cavaliers the early lead in a series that coaches and players hope someday will attract the attention and support of the student body, and ultimately, the community.

Like many "expansion" teams, St. Mary's and Spalding both have taken their proverbial lumps in their inaugural season in the Maryland Scholastic Association Hockey League. Yet, not even their combined 1-4 record could spoil the fondness the 35 county skaters have developed for the sport.

"This sport is contagious and we're just hoping its popularity catches on around here," said St. Mary's coach Tom Erkman, a native New Englander who spent eight years as both an assistant and head hockey coach at the Naval Academy. "I may only have 13 guys on my team, but every one of them is committed to the game and their enthusiasm has been unreal."

The Saints had enough enthusiasm to build a 7-3 lead over Loyola in last Tuesday's home opener at the Naval Academy's Dahlgren Hall, but lacked the manpower to sustain the lead. They yielded five third-period goals en route to an 8-7 loss to the Dons.

"We have a wide range of talent and very little depth, which creates a fatigue problem going into the third period," said Erkman, whose team plays host to Gilman (1-1) today at 5:30 p.m. "If we had another line of people, we'd be in a lot better shape, but the guys do what they have to do and they don't cry about it."

And why should they? Six months ago the Saints didn't expect to be competing on the ice, let alone struggling for a win. St. Mary's administration couldn't find the money in its athletic budget to support a varsity program that requires not only high-priced equipment, but expensive ice time that is needed to conduct both games and practice.

So, behind the persistent leadership of Jake Thompson, and his father Ken, each athlete provided his own equipment and a $250 athletic fee, which goes toward compensating the officials and Dahlgren Hall, which the St. Mary's ice hockey team calls home.

"Personally, I thought it would never get off the ground," said St. Mary's athletic director Carmine Blades, who supplies the team with transportation to and from away games. "I kept putting barriers in front of them and they kept climbing over them."

Planning ahead paid off for the Cavaliers who announced their intention of starting a team last year. Early disclosure helped produce a team of 22 players that coach Don Mellin believes could make an early impact on the league.

"Based on the schedule we have, we should be able to make it into the playoffs," said Mellin, who has spent the last 22 years coaching youngsters in the Bowie Hockey Club. "We have a good, strong team and making the playoffs in our first year would be ideal for me as a coach and a fine beginning to a program that is growing in interest."

Spalding has only three seniors on its team but that trio includes captain Keith Ramsey and Tom Weeks, who Mellin says were "instrumental in starting the program."

Jim Carraway, a native of Buffalo, is the third senior and he, too, has emerged as a leader for Mellin's squad.

The Saints aren't quite as blessed. Dominic Souza (nine goals, three assists), Chris Venuti (three, two) and Jake Thompson (one, one) are all well-versed in the game of ice hockey, but the puck stops there.

"Venuti and Thompson are mainstays and Souza is a prolific scorer, but after that our talent level drops off dramatically," said Erkman.

"After those three, I have a group of guys who don't yet have a firm grasp of what the game is all about. But, they're learning."

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