The Washington Post

Wildcats finish top shelf after Mannle’s late goal


With the score tied and just over two minutes left in regulation of Friday night’s Maryland Student Hockey League final, Walter Johnson’s Luke Mannle found a path to the point. The sophomore defenseman let loose a shot top shelf that got past Churchill’s netminder.

Moments later, gloves were tossed in the air at Gardens Ice House in Laurel and Walter Johnson was celebratin­g a 5-4 win and its second MSHL championsh­ip.

“It was amazing,” said Mannle, who also opened the scoring with a deep shot in the second period. “We had to keep it going. The game wasn’t over.”

Moments before Mannle’s eventual game-winner, Churchill (12-7-1) seemed to be in control of a back-and-forth battle.

The Bulldogs, the reigning MSHL titlists, scored three straight goals — two from sophomore forward Brook Chapman — earlier in the third period to jump out to a 4-3 lead.

With just under four minutes left, Walter Johnson Coach Malcolm Pharr called a timeout ahead of a power play. The Wildcats’ offense responded with senior forward Ethan Birndorf delivering the equalizer.

“This has been a long time coming,” Pharr said. “It’s an awesome culminatio­n to a really great season.”

Walter Johnson (17-3-1), which won its previous MSHL title 18 years ago, beat the Bulldogs for the third time this season.

Friday’s contest was dominated by defense early. The Bulldogs enjoyed an 11-4 shot advantage in the first period, but neither team found the back of the net.

Mannle’s first goal, coming 2:12 into the second period, opened the scoring. But Churchill had a quick answer.

With a swarm of skaters in front of the net, junior forward Joshua Potenti whacked the puck forward, and it deflected off freshman Qin Lai’s stick and into the back of the net.

Walter Johnson snatched the lead back within four minutes thanks to an unassisted goal from senior forward Alexander Chang. The Wildcats added another early in the third period when junior forward Brendan Klotz, Walter Johnson’s leading scorer, scored a shorthande­d goal.

“One of the biggest moments of my hockey career,” said Klotz, who said he has longed for this moment since his older brother played on the 2020 Walter Johnson team that lost in the final. “It’s everything I’ve worked for.”

Churchill had one more answer.

Less than a minute later, freshman forward Daniel Mcnelis slid the puck past Jason Conlan and cut the deficit in half. Two minutes later, junior forward Zack Silver tied it at three with an unassisted goal.

There was still one piece of drama to come, however, and Mannle delivered it.

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