The Wingspan

Centennial High School's Daily Online News Source

The Wingspan

The Wingspan

A historic year of firsts for the HoCo Wolves

After a lackluster 2-3 start to the season, the HoCo Wolves battled adversity to get hot late in the season, making team history by advancing further than they have ever gotten in the MSHL (Maryland State Hockey League) playoffs in the team’s 13-year run.
After a lackluster 2-3 start to the season, the HoCo Wolves battled adversity to get hot late in the season, making team history by advancing further than they have ever gotten in the MSHL (Maryland State Hockey League) playoffs in the team’s 13-year run.

The Wolves only date back to 2011. Comprising players from Centennial, Wilde Lake, Hammond, Oakland Mills and Long Reach High School, the team has historically succeeded throughout the regular season, but have been bounced in the county semi-finals for four years straight including last year’s upset loss against Marriotts Ridge as the season’s No.1 seed. This year, the Wolves were hoping to recover from their previous disappointments in counties and state playoffs. With captains Cameron Westlake, Ciaran Brighton and Dylan Collora all set to graduate in 2024, this season was the senior’s best and final chance to make a run. 

The Wolves opened the season firing, handily beating River Hill 12-2. But after losses to the Hammers (Atholton, Howard and Mt. Hebron) and the Royals (Reservoir and Guilford Park), players had to reevaluate, including Cameron Westlake. “We came into the season coming off a near-undefeated season last year. Naturally, we became overconfident and lost to teams we definitely shouldn’t have. [After the two losses] we all sat down and knew we had to change our mindsets, we weren’t going to start winning games until we understood that we weren’t invincible,” said the First Team all County Forward. 

Westlake skating between defenders en route to their win against Glenelg. (Alex Raney, CSM)

After the early wake-up call, the Wolves slowly settled in, going 6-4 in conference play; this earned them the two-seed which would clinch a first-round bye to the dreaded semi-finals, where they faced the River Hill Ice Hawks. However, unlike the prior seasons the Wolves prevailed, taking down the Hawks for the third time in the season by a score of 7-5. The Wolves secured a spot in the Serio Cup Final for the first time in their history, facing the team who had their number throughout the regular season beating them twice, in the Glenelg Gladiators.

Fans packed the Columbia Ice Rink on February 8 to watch the highly anticipated game, and the Wolves did not disappoint. Big hits and unfathomable saves kept the energy high and the Wolves prevailed 4-1, securing the Serio Cup championship.

 “Seeing everybody in the stands cheering for us was the best feeling in the world, and then actually winning the championship was just amazing,” said Brighton. Wilde Lake goalie Dylan Collora agreed, claiming it was his favorite game that they won all year. “It felt surreal. I’ve always dreamed of winning the Serio Cup game, but I honestly never thought we’d ever make it that far.” 

Goalie Dylan Collora celebrating with the Serio Cup after defeating Glenelg. (Alex Raney, CSM)

Hot off the win, the Wolves next obstacle between them and the state title were the reigning state champions, Walter Johnson High School, in the first round of the MSHL state playoffs. Players were skeptical about how they’d fare against a team as high-powered as WJ, but those doubts were quickly silenced after a 2-1 lead was created in the first period, led by goals from Brighton and fellow Centennial student Chris Arcuri. The Wolves extended their lead shortly into the second period after a power play goal, again by Brighton. After this, the Wolves sat back on defense and rallied behind second-team all-state goalkeeper Collora, who recorded 24 saves en-route to a nail-biting 3-2 victory. The Wolves had taken down the former champs and had hoped to ride their hot streak against Severna Park in the state quarter-finals.

Striking early once again, the Wolves took a 1-0 lead into the second period after a power-play goal by Westlake. Severna Park answered late in the second period with a goal of their own, setting up for an intense third period. After nearly 13 minutes of back-and-forth gameplay, Wilde Lake defender Joe Mosley tapped in what would be the game-winning goal, winning the Wolves a spot in the state semi-finals.

The Wolves’ magic would eventually run out, getting outplayed by this season’s state champions, the Oakdale Bears. Still not at full strength with Oakland Mills Forward Ryan Dyer inactive, the Wolves would’ve needed all the help they could’ve gotten to thrive against the 20-1 powerhouse. After staying in reach for the first two periods, their defense eventually fell apart in the third, ending the Wolves’ Cinderella run.

Looking back at the team’s late hot streak, First Team All Conference Forward Ciaran Brighton attributed the Wolves’ impressive performance to the team’s camaraderie: “The key to our success as a whole, whether it was this year or previous years, was the fact that everyone understood their role on the team; no one tried to be the hero, everybody understood what their job was and did their best to complete it. I also think that the team became more than just a bunch of guys from different schools, it became a family.”

Brighton looking for the open man against Glenelg from earlier in the season. (Alex Raney, CSM)

In retrospect, Westlake said that making it as far as they did felt amazing, and that he has cherished his four years with the Wolves. “Having been a part of the team since my freshman year, I understood that our team had never made it far and it felt great to be a part of the reason we finally did,” he reflected.

Being underdogs for the majority of the playoffs, there is a lot to be celebrated by the Wolves, including winning multiple games as the lowest-seeded team in states, advancing to the county championship, winning the Serio Cup and making it to the state semi-finals all for the first time in the teams’ short history. There is a lot to be proud of and the Wolves sent their seniors off on a high note.


For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Jackson Palich, Sports Editor