COLUMBUS — After five periods of hockey, it took just 11 seconds for St. Ignatius to finally end Saturday’s second OHSAA ice hockey state semifinal.
Bain Kurtz scored on the first rush of the third overtime Saturday, as the Wildcats rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Hunting Valley University School 4-3 at Nationwide Arena.
Off the opening faceoff of the third overtime, Michael McCaffrey had a nice deflection at the line to knock the puck into the zone.
Once the puck was over the blue line, two St. Ignatius players beat the University School players into the zone. McCaffrey chased down the puck, passed it to Kurtz who beat Jackson Polish for the game winner.
Kurtz didn’t expect to find himself alone in front of the net but also knew he did not have a lot of time.
“Yeah, I was surprised,” Kurtz said. “I saw Michael tip the puck into the zone. I let him go get it instead of I, and I got in front of the net. I looked back behind me and there were three Preppers chasing me down.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to get a stick on that, but Michael and I have had a connection all year. I knew he’d get it on my stick. It was a matter of whether I could bury it. It went off the pipe and in and … it was a great feeling.”
While St. Ignatius dominated in shots on goal — 56 to 30 — St. Ignatius head coach Pat O’Rourke felt some of the momentum change when the game switched to 4 on 4 play at the start of the second overtime.
“It could have gone either way,” O’Rourke said. “When it was 5 on 5, we were doing very well. But 4 on 4 is a different deal, and we don’t play 4 on 4 much or even practice it much. It’s a little bit of a crap shoot.”
One thing that allowed University School to get the better of the offensive chances in the second overtime was the way it approaches 4 on 4. Instead of two offensive players and two defensemen, University School head coach André Lacroix dispatches just one defenseman with three forwards.
“The reason I felt 4 on 4 was at our advantage because we play three forwards and one D,” Lacroix said. “We get more offense that way. But, our forwards got so much ice time. They were tired. If it would have been the first overtime 4 on 4, I think I would have liked our chances a lot better.”
Even when his team trailed 3-1, O’Rourke was confident in the way his team was playing.
“I thought we were really playing well,” O’Rourke said. “Basically we were dominating the game. We’ve been down a lot — which is kind of surprising for where we are. These guys are unflappable. We were never worried. I didn’t really ever think we were going to lose the game.”
Lacroix felt things changed for his team in the third period when Chris Revnew scored to pull St. Ignatius within 3-2 at 2:30.
“We came in the third, and it seems we played … like we didn’t want to lose instead of wanting to win,” Lacroix said. “As soon as they scored that (second) goal … it seemed the momentum changed. We tended to be more defensive-minded.”
Even with the defensive-minded effort, University School goalie Jackson Polish kept his team in the game with 52 saves.
“I’ve said all along, Jackson should have been the MVP of the league this year,” Lacroix said. “We wouldn’t be where we are now if it wasn’t for him.”
Despite the fact that his team was heavily outshot, Lacroix knows from his experience with Team Canada during his playing days that doesn’t always determine the winner.
“You can look at the shots on goal, and it doesn’t mean anything to me,” Lacroix said. “I played in the 1974 series against the Russians. We outshot them every game and they beat us.”
St. Ignatius will play St. Francis 2 p.m. Sunday in the state title game. It will be the third meeting between the two. St. Francis won the first meeting 6-3, and St. Ignatius the second 7-3.
“I think a lot of people want St. Ignatius and St. Francis … it’s like a trilogy like the Rocky series,” O’Rourke said. “It seems fated to be us and them. It’s going to be a titanic matchup. We have all the respect in the world for them. They do it all. We’ll have to work hard to stay in that one.”
March 11, 2017
At Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
OHSAA Ice Hockey State Semifinals
St. Ignatius 4, University School 3
SI — 2 – 1 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 1 — 4
US — 1 – 0 – 2 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 3
FIRST PERIOD: Scoring — 1, St. Ignatius, Michael Boehm (Bain Kurtz, Matt Wiegandt) 1:42. 2, University School, JD Clemens (Tommy Nook, George Brinn) 6:40. 3, University School, Reid Anderson (Rory Kelly) 10:08. Penalties — Alex Hoyen, University School (Holding) 11:04. SECOND PERIOD: Scoring — 4, University School, George Brinn (Ethan Whetstone) 14:59. Penalties — Peter Lehmann, University School (Tripping) 5:12. THIRD PERIOD: Scoring — 5, St. Ignatius, Chris Revnew (Andrew Zedella, Benji Rechin) 2:30. 6, St. Ignatius, Andrew Zedella (Michael McCafrey, Connor McGowan) 12:52. Penalties — None. THIRD OVERTIME: Scoring — 7, St. Ignatius, Bain Kurtz (Michael McCaffrey, Matt Wiegandt) 0:11. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal: University School 8 – 4 – 9 – 3 – 6 – 0 – 30. St. Ignatius 17 – 14 – 15 – 7 – 2 – 1 – 56. Power plays: University School 0 for 0. St. Ignatius 0 for 2, 6 shots. Goalies: Jackson Polish, University School (56 shots, 52 saves). Benny Savarino, St. Ignatius (30 shots, 27 saves). T: 2:36.
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @ByMattSexton