Playoff games are rarely as lopsided as Wednesday’s contest between Oakdale and North Hagerstown.
The Bears, who scored 29 goals in a shutout of the Hubs last week, did not have much trouble dispatching them again in the Class 2A Region II quarterfinal. Oakdale ran up 20 first-half goals, and a running clock carried out a 25-2 drubbing of North Hagerstown at home.
But postseason games like this, as few and far between as they are, allow young teams like the Bears to build confidence and give players who don’t typically see the field a chance to gain valuable experience. That was particularly the case for three junior varsity callups — midfielder Jeffrey Hathaway, defenseman/midfielder Liam Burke and goalkeeper Aidan Culkin.
“Those guys busted their butts for us on JV all year,” Oakdale coach Dale Kowatch said. “They are more than deserving of being pulled up.”
Hathaway made the biggest impact of the trio in Wednesday’s game, notching a hat trick. Those three goals all came in the second quarter and were the first of his career at the varsity level. Each one looked natural.
He wrapped around the net for his first tally, scored off a faceoff rush for his second strike and potted his third after his Oakdale teammates forced a turnover.
“It’s been a lot different playing with the varsity guys just because they’re a lot faster and much higher level,” Hathaway said. “It was really good [to score].”
Burke and Culkin also made an impact in more subtle ways. Burke got involved on a nice passing sequence in the first quarter, setting up sophomore attack Shaun Wright for a strike.
Culkin, meanwhile, played the entire second half to give starting netminder Avery Linthicum some rest and only allowed one goal, making a handful of saves. He even drew a penalty in the fourth quarter, nearly running the length of the field to get involved in the offense.
“It’s brought a new energy to the team,” Wright said. “When they make a big play, it’s always hype because they weren’t here all year. But when they come up, they’re able to play with us and excel.”
Wright led all scorers with five goals and opened the onslaught just over two minutes into the contest. The Bears (9-6) rattled off nine unanswered goals in the first quarter and, after an early second-quarter strike by the Hubs, tallied 11 straight times to end the first half and initiate a running clock.
That allowed the younger players like Hathaway, Burke and Culkin to see action. Each made an impact in their limited playing time and got a taste of playoff action, even if it was more one-sided than typical.
Oakdale’s next opponent — top-seeded Poolesville on Friday — will likely present less of those opportunities and a much tougher matchup. But if any of those three is pressed into duty, they now have some experience.
“Just to give them a taste of what’s to come in the next few years, it’s the least I could do to reward them for their hard work,” Kowatch said.