MSHL changes its line on divisional structure

Champions to be decided for public, private schools, but the two will not meet


High School Sports

Winter Preview

December 05, 2003|By Mike Frainie | Mike Frainie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Area high school hockey fans will notice a significant change in the way that the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League structures its divisions this season. The change also will be reflected in the league's playoffs.

MSHL officials decided to do away with Tier I and Tier II teams, and structure the league around a public school champion and a private school champion. Although both championships will be played at the same venue on the same date (March 1 at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel), the two champions will not meet.

"We decided that most people looked at the Tier II teams as second-class citizens," said league representative Joe LaCour. Most of the MSHL's teams competed at the Tier II level last season. "Our goal is to grow the sport in the public schools, and this will allow us to do that," said LaCour.

Across the league, teams will be divided into classifications based on skill, much like the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association does. The three classifications - AAA, AA and A - will be determined by skill level. Each year, teams will be re-evaluated and moved up or down.

Howard County teams, for example, will be divided into AA teams (Atholton, Centennial, Hammond, Howard and River Hill) and A teams (Glenelg, Long Reach, Mount Hebron and Wilde Lake). Each team in the same classification will play twice, while occasionally playing a team from the other classification.

In another change, only one team from each member school will be allowed to compete for a league championship. This change affects Mount St. Joseph, where the Gaels' Tier I team won the Tier I championship, while the Tier II team finished third in the Tier II playoffs. The ruling means the Gaels will still be able to have a second team, but that team will be ineligible for the league's postseason.

Teams will be seeded for the league championship, with all teams that post a record of .500 or better making the playoffs. League champions will receive higher seeds.

On the ice, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's A Conference again will be the area's best league. Mount St. Joseph, the defending conference champion and MSHL Tier I champion, again will be the team to beat, followed by Spalding and Calvert Hall.

The Gaels (22-1-1 last year) return forwards Matt Nedzel and Patrick Noonan from last year's team, and they will be partnered with Patrick Riley, who played on the Tier II team last season, to form the top line. Patrick Street, whom coach Erv Terwilliger calls one of the best players he's had, will take over in the goal.

Spalding, which finished third in the league last year, has depth at every position and could be poised to knock off the Gaels. Senior goalie Darren DeLullo is the team leader, with senior Sean Gerding and sophomore Ryan Craig providing a large chunk of the offense.

Calvert Hall's program took large strides toward respectability, and the trend should continue this year. The Cardinals are led by senior forward Mike Anderson, their leading scorer from last season, and sophomore defenseman Dan Hanley.

St. Mary's will be rebuilding this year, but the Saints will still be formidable. Coach Tom Judge will rely on seniors Justin Reed (forward), Will Dalton (forward) and David McGady (defense) to guide the team. Loyola will feature new coach Marty Coggin, and the Dons will look to improve behind seniors Brett Buchness (forward) and Matt Antol (defense).

This year will be a rebuilding year for Archbishop Curley and new coach John Ettore. The Friars will look to restart a once-dominant program with juniors Robert Hempsteader (forward-defense) and Corey Asendorf (goal). Senior Ryan Monahan (defense) will provide the leadership.

In the B Conference, Gilman should be the team to beat, followed by defending champion Boys' Latin and Saints Peter and Paul from Easton.

The Greyhounds, behind new coach Bill Auerswald, return 10 seniors from last year's playoff team.

In Anne Arundel County, Broadneck returns the core of a team that was the runner-up among public schools last year. The Bruins will be younger, but still very aggressive on offense. Senior Brock Linderman (forward) and juniors Tim Harris (defense) and Patrick Wagner (forward) will play key roles.

Old Mill will have a provisional team with Glen Burnie again this year, and the Patriots figure to be improved. Forwards Champ Frye (senior) and Bobby Ferrari (junior) will provide the scoring, while goaltender Casey Davis (freshman) will key the defense.

Howard and River Hill will be the teams to beat in a balanced AA division of Howard County, while Long Reach and Wilde Lake will battle for the A division crown.

Another contender among the AA schools could be Hammond. The Bears, who shared a provisional team with Wilde Lake last season, will be senior-led, with Jeremy Embrey (goalie), Kyle Chesley (forward) and Kevin Chesley (defense) as the leaders.

Fallston will share a provisional team with Bel Air, and the entry again will be the only team in Harford County. The team returns 85 percent of its players from an 11-2-1 team, and will be led by forwards Mike Petty (senior) and Cory Jendras (junior).

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