Winning the title in sudden death
On Feb. 29, the Southern Maryland Sabres U-18 Upper A Travel Team, led by head coach Stacey Craft Sr. and assistant coach Gary Cote, competed against the Baltimore Stars for the Chesapeake Bay Hockey League U-18 Upper A Championship in Richmond, Va. The Sabres earned the No. 1 seed entering the playoffs and defeated the No. 4 seed Richmond Royals 8-1 in the opening round of the playoffs. The championship game between the Sabres and No. 2 seed Baltimore proved to be a fast, tough, low-scoring game. During the regular season, Baltimore defeated the Sabres on its home ice and the Sabres defeated Baltimore in Baltimore. After period 1 in the championship game, the score was tied 0-0. Baltimore scored the first goal of the game early in period 2 and the Sabres tied the game at 1 late in period 2 with a goal from Andrew Bruening, assisted by CJ Craft. Just less than seven minutes remaining in period 3, the Sabres gained the lead with a goal from Denis Kuzminov, assisted by Bryce Leger. Baltimore fought back and tied the game at 2 with just over three minutes remaining in the period. The game went to a sudden-death overtime period and the Sabres never gave up another shot on goal to Baltimore, thus goalie Cam Mackiewicz played another great game in net stopping 20 of 22 shots on goal from Baltimore. Just 48 seconds into overtime, Antonio Briggs-Blake won an offensive zone face-off to Eric Johnston, who assisted Jake Pilkerton at the blue line for a sudden-death overtime championship game-winning goal for the Sabres. This was a special moment for the team and the families as many of the Sabres players played their final CBHL game and are now moving onto college. Many of the Sabres players have played Sabres hockey for nearly a decade. The championship was the first-ever Upper-A Level CBHL Championship for the Sabres. Pictured, from left and front to back, are Cameron Mackiewicz, Denis Kuzminov, Bryce Leger, Nick Digiovannantonio, Sam Camiletti, CJ Craft, Eric Johnston, Hunter Stempin, assistant coach Gary Cote, Quinton Dade, Michael McGregor, JP Pilkerton, Daniel Cote, Andrew Bruening, Greg Sowa, Parker Hopkins, Brandon Roth, Antonio Briggs-Blake, Walter Burlack and head coach Stacey Craft.