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Briar Woods dismantles Langley to claim first NVSHL title

Briar Woods team captain, Justin Plumhoff, holds the cup over his head in celebration with his teammates after the conclusion of the NVHSL championship game. Briar Woods defeated Langley, 7-2, to claim the title.—Times-Mirror Photo/Aaron Thomas
Championships have become commonplace for Ashburn's newest high school.

Following the example of title-collecting Falcons on the football and competitive cheer squads earlier this school year, Briar Woods claimed the crown of the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League with a convincing 7-2 win March 1 over Langley at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington.

"Honestly, there are no words to describe this feeling," said junior Justin Plumhoff, the Falcons' captain, after handing off the gleaming Capitals Cup to jubilant teammates.

It is the first NVSHL championship in school history.

In last year's title game, Briar Woods fell to Stone Bridge in a hard-hitting affair. Plumhoff indicated that moment was instrumental in propelling the Falcons' motivation for this season.

"This is validation," fifth-year coach Bill Hughes said. "We had to beat the champion. Then we had to come in today and take it shift by shift, period by period."

After several ragged opening minutes, the Saxons (12-1) finally took the lid off the nets when Jeremy Kim knocked a rebound over the left shoulder of goalie Garrett Forrest.

The Falcons (11-2-1) answered 74 seconds later when Luke Benitez walked in and beat Langley netminder Ryan Framinan.

"That was important," said Benitez, a sophomore. "You never want to give up a quick goal, but you've got to come back and we were able to do that."

From there it was all Briar Woods. NVSHL Player of the Year Brendan Walsh scored later in the first to give the Falcons a lead they would not relinquish.

A raucous throng of Falcon supporters made the arena ring with cheers as Briar Woods blocked shots, interrupted passes and made offense difficult for the previously unbeaten Saxons.

The Falcons more than doubled the number of goals Langley allowed in any game this season.

"I did a decent amount of prep work for this game," said Hughes, whose club suffered a 2-1 loss to Langley in their regular season finale Feb. 10. "We knew we would have to jump on them as quickly as possible and never let up."

The Saxons made a bid to get back into it early in the third when Drew Schneider poked in a rebound, but again Briar Woods responded immediately with a Bobby VanDusen goal 30 seconds later.

Kim Rajalin, a senior exchange student from Finland, scored on a power play with less than three minutes left, sealing the victory and the championship.

The large Falcon crowd counted down the final seconds, erupting when the clock struck zero and sticks, gloves and helmets were flung into the air by ecstatic Briar Woods players.

"Our fans have meant so much to us this year," Plumhoff said. "We've had a few hard times, but they've always been there. Tonight they drove through the traffic to get here and help us through this game."

To reach that game, the fifth-seeded Falcons -- runners-up in the league's Patrick Division -- needed to upend Paul VI and Chantilly to earn a semifinal match Feb. 27 with undefeated Stone Bridge at the Ashburn Ice House.

The Falcons took it to the rival Bulldogs in a physical 5-2 win, besting the five-time champs to earn a second straight spot in the ultimate contest.

"That was our most important game all year, no doubt," Plumhoff said. "That gave us the confidence to come here and win. We knew if we could beat Stone Bridge, we could beat anyone in the league."

The first-ever hockey championship bodes well for Briar Woods' program, which has made consistent strides each season under Hughes' tutelage. Going through their stalwart neighbors to get it only adds to the sweetness.

"It's all about bragging rights now," said Plumhoff with a big smile.

Briar Woods 7, Langley 2

-First Period
L: Kim from Shames, 8:19
BW: Benitez from Zagade, 9:33
BW: Walsh from McDonald, 12:21

-Second Period
BW: Rajalin from VanDusen, 4:42
BW: McDonald from Zagade, 6:01
BW: Benitez from Zagade, 16:11

-Third Period
L: Schneider from Diner, 5:57
BW: VanDusen from Benitez, Regester, 6:27
BW: Rajalin from Plumhoff (PP), 15:22

-Saves: BW-Forrest 25; L-Framinan 14, R. Guidi 10

-Three Stars: Benitez, Zagade, Rajalin

-All photos by Aaron Thomas


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