1-8 loss ends successful Blair season
The Blair community ice hockey team is not affiliated with or sponsored by the Montgomery Blair High School athletic program or Montgomery County Public Schools. The team is an independent group of Blair students.
SKATE FREDERICK, Feb. 12 –
The Blair ice hockey team (6-6) lost 1-8 to the two-time reigning state champion Walt Whitman (11-1) in a hard-fought game Friday night, ending the Blazers' first playoff run since 2005. Blair's sole goal came with six minutes left in the third period, as senior forward Max Pollacco scored on a rebound from freshman forward Rudy Carson's blocked shot.
Although Blair maintained heat on the Vikings, who were the best team in the Montgomery East league this year, the Blazers were unable to overcome early Whitman dominance. Whitman scored three goals in each of the first two periods, and a robust Viking defense made it difficult for Blazer forwards to position themselves in strategic locations around the goal.
Blair head coach Kevin McCabe, who watched from the sidelines as part of a two-game suspension, said Blair faltered early and struggled to regain momentum, despite a strong end-game performance. "I'm disappointed for the guys. They worked hard to get here and came up a little flat," he said. "We didn't set the tone we wanted to initially. We were strongest in the third period."
The Blazers had to play without their head coach and usual cohort of enthusiastic fans; Blazer parents were the main audience members, who braved the hour-long commute through the snow to Frederick. Despite the unusual circumstances, Blair did not give up the fight against Whitman, who beat the Blazers 13-1 in their last match-up on Nov. 20.
Pollacco, Carson and senior forward Jens Josephs led the offensive front. Blair overcame an initial inability to escape the defending zone, and Carson fired a series of hard shots at the Whitman net as the game progressed.
Pollacco said he thought Blair's perseverance shone through the game's tougher moments. "We hung in there and it showed a lot of effort," he said. "We had moments where we definitely showed a lot of heart."
Freshman goalie Michel Devynck remained resolute despite more than two dozen Whitman shots on goal, while senior captain Logan Schwebel and sophomore Alex Stewart led the Blazer defense. Blair managed to cope with a number of setbacks, including a stretch of time during the second period when a two-minute penalty for Stewart and a rare four-minute penalty for Schwebel left the Blazers outnumbered. But Blair was still able to stave off the Whitman offense. Assistant Whitman coach Andy Wolfe said that Blair was extremely determined in the rink. "I thought they played really hard and didn't leave anything out on the ice, that's for sure," he said.
Throughout their season, Blair focused on that theme of overcoming the odds, according to several players. Junior forward Ben Kaufman said Blair's successful playoff berth was remarkable, given the significant setbacks the team encountered early in the season. "We had a lot of injuries, but we accomplished what we wanted: We got to the playoffs," Kaufman said. McCabe noted that Blair bounced back from an initial 1-5 record and won five games in a row to squeeze past Walter Johnson into the fourth league playoff spot.
Pollacco said he was proud of the team's performance against Whitman and throughout the season. "They were a stronger team, but we put up a good fight and I think it was a decent way to end the season," he said.
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