COLUMBUS — Olentangy Liberty goalie Logan Senhauser could only withstand the St. Francis de Sales onslaught for so long.
Leading by one goal heading to the third, St. Francis broke through for five third-period goals Saturday in an 8-2 rout of Liberty in the OHSAA ice hockey state semifinals.
St. Francis will play either St. Ignatius or University School at 2 p.m. Sunday in the state championship game.
It was a shooting gallery most of the way, with St. Francis outshooting Liberty 58-21. However, the game was tied at two late in the second period.
After Liberty tied the game in the opening seconds of the second period, St. Francis head coach Chris Varga felt his team tightened up.
“It seemed like we clammed up a little bit,” Varga said. “We were afraid to make mistakes.”
Warren Natyshak jumped on a rebound in the crease and buried it to give St. Francis a 3-2 lead with just 37 seconds left in the second.
Varga believed the memory of the Knights’ 5-1 state semifinal loss to St. Ignatius a year ago motivated his team to put Liberty away.
“I think the kids just beared down,” Varga said. “These veteran players, they know what it was last year, how it felt like after the semifinals. I don’t think they wanted to do that again.
“I hand it to them. They wanted it. It’s their team.”
It was a back-breaking goal for Liberty.
“Those are obviously the toughest goals to give up,” Liberty head coach Jack Hoogeveen said. “It was a little tougher getting into the third.”
Jimmy Bursinger, who had the first Liberty goal, said the late goals were tough to overcome.
“It’s pretty deflating,” Bursinger said. “You get those big goals, you’re pretty pumped and you’ve got all the momentum, then they make that big response shift and they take it all away from you.”
St. Francis was unstoppable in the third, scoring five unanswered in the period. They played with a speed that Liberty couldn’t match. Natyshak felt the team was more relaxed in the final period.
“We got our jitters out in the first and second period,” Natyshak said. “We wore them down. We’ve got two lines that can go.”
Liberty junior Ron Ambrosia, who also had a goal, said the returners can build off of the experience despite the tough loss.
“It was really impressive because we started out the year 2-3 and we came all the way to this game,” Ambrosia said. “Next year it’s going to be big because we know the feeling. For me and the other underclassmen, it’s going to be big to try to win this game and go to a state championship.”
St. Francis’ Kevin Hack, who had a hat trick, three assists and a plus-6 rating, said the team would love to have another shot at St. Ignatius on Sunday.
“Last year, it was just terrible … a terrible feeling,” Hack said. “I don’t want that to ever happen again. Obviously if we play St. Ignatius, we want to get them back. We felt like they took something off of our fingers last year.”
March 11, 2017
At Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
OHSAA Ice Hockey State Semifinals
St. Francis 8, Olentangy Liberty 2
SF — 2 – 1 – 5 — 8
OL — 1 – 1 – 0 — 2
FIRST PERIOD: Scoring — 1, St. Francis, Nick Daly (Kevin Hack) 5:15. 2, Liberty, James Bursinger (Kent Stadulis) 14:11. 3, St. Francis, Kevin Hack (unassisted) 14:49. Penalties — None. SECOND PERIOD: Scoring — 4, Liberty, Ron Ambrosia (Craig Lutwen) 0:38. 5, St. Francis, Warren Natyshak (Kevin Hack, Nick Daly) 14:23. Penalties — Craig Lutwen, Liberty (Tripping) 4:01. THIRD PERIOD: Scoring — 6, St. Francis, Warren Natyshak (Kevin Hack) 2:24. 7, St. Francis, Ben Mitchell (Gabe Barrow) 5:44. 8, St. Francis, Gabe Barrow (Matt Snyder) 7:15. 9, St. Francis, Kevin Hack (Unassisted) 9:07. 10, St. Francis, Kevin Hack (Warren Natyshak) 11:53. Penalties — Kevin Hack, St. Francis (Cross-checking) 4:05; Gabe Barrow, St. Francis (Cross-checking) 7:15; Dylan Kwapich, St. Francis (Tripping) 8:02; Nick Kozma, St. Francis (Holding) 11:12.
Shots on goal: St. Francis 15 – 21 – 22 — 58. Liberty 5 – 9 – 7 — 21. Power plays: St. Francis 0 for 1, 6 shots. Liberty 0 for 4, 2 t shots. Goalies: St. Francis, Jacob Coward (21 shots-19 saves). Logan Senhauser, Liberty (57 shots, 50 saves). T: 1:51.
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @ByMattSexton
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