For the St. Mark’s High School hockey team, all things are truly possible.
On Wednesday night (Feb. 28) at the Patriot Ice Center in Newark, Del., the Spartans not only reached the divisional finals in their first season in the Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League (ICSHL), but upended the defending South Division champions from Delaware Military Academy in a thrilling 5-3 victory.
After a bench minor left St. Mark’s down a man at the 1:07 mark and a slashing minor on DMA’s Alex Maglio at 1:39 brought upon four-on-four action, St. Mark’s leading scorer Patrick Swain split defenders and put the Spartans on the board with a top-shelf wrist shot from 15 feet away at 2:19. Not even three minutes later, the Seahawks capitalised on an odd-man rush, as Alex Maglio led a three-on-zero charge up the right-wing boards before tying the game at 5:15. Maglio then assisted DMA leading scorer Markus Cook on his 44th goal of the season at 10:59, a five-hole score from just beyond the right edge of the crease, to put the Seahawks up 2-1 at the first period’s completion.
Swain, speaking of the regular-season series split between the teams, said, “We beat them once this season, on senior night. They handed it to us a couple weeks later. It just turned into—we didn’t want to feel the agony of defeat.”
A resilient Spartans side dug in to score three more goals in the second period, reclaiming a lead they would not relinquish again. A Kevin Groves net-front redirect of a Lance Ralsten chance up the right side tied the game for St. Mark’s at 4:49. Swain had a prime opportunity to notch the go-ahead goal with a breakaway in the tenth minute of the second, but instead lofted the puck into the glass behind DMA goalie Anthony Guerrieri. Captain Joey Centrone however was able to reclaim the lead for the Spartans, leading a two-on-two charge up the right wing before crossing into the low slot and backhanding the puck over Guerrieri’s right shoulder at 11:18. Liam Kline’s seventh goal of the year, coming at the end of a breakaway in from the right side at 15:14, increased the St. Mark’s lead to 4-2.
Down a pair through two, the defending South Division champions showed resolve and cut their deficit to a goal in the sixth minute of the third period. Markus Cook, in trying for his second goal of the game, rang a hard wrist shot off the post, but Aaron Catron redirected the rebound past Billy Pierce at 5:03 to pull the Seahawks within one. Just over three minutes later, Alex Hartwick’s redirect of a Lance Ralsten chance from the left point enabled St. Mark’s to edge away to a 5-3 margin, one which remained until the end despite DMA pulling Guerrieri for an extra attacker in the final minute.
“Within the last three minutes, it was a bunch of mostly dumping and chasing,” said Pierce of the Spartans’ approach to protecting their two-goal lead late. “We had to play defensively, and we did that for the most part.”
Pierce registered 32 saves in victory, while fellow junior netminder Guerrieri stopped 32 of the shots he faced in defeat.
Both teams will play in the Flyers Cup tournament in mid-March, but St. Mark’s will be in action Friday (March 2) against Salesianum at the Hockey for a Cause event to support the Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities.