By Patrick Kelly
Playing in the semifinals of the Blackhawk Cup state tournament on St. Patricks Day, it certainly did not hurt St. Viator to have a little luck in the opening seconds of the game Saturday against Loyola Gold.
Just 12 seconds after the puck dropped, junior defenseman Michael Deckers pass attempt took a tricky bounce behind the Loyola net and led to a goal for the Lions.
St. Viator ended up scoring three goals in the opening period, and hung on for a 4-2 victory at the Edge West in Bensenville.
I was actually trying to dump the puck deep, it hit off the boards weird and hit off the goalies skate and went in, Decker said. I would say it was lucky, you usually do not get those goals. It is nice to have off the bat and get some momentum and start moving forward, which we did. We got three early goals on them.
The next step for St. Viator will be the state championship final March 23rd at the United Center against St. Rita, 3-2 winners against top-seeded New Trier Green on Saturday afternoon.
Jackson Owens and Patrick Gregory each followed with goals in the first period as the Lions took a 3-0 lead.
Loyola Gold responded in the second period, when Tom Kennedy rebounded his own shot and found the net with a blast past the stick of St. Viator goalie Robert Schmidt with under five minutes gone in the period.
Just over a minute later, James Warrick put another Loyola goal in the net, and the Ramblers trailed 3-2.
We dug ourselves a hole in the first period, but we showed our moxie by not folding up the tent, Loyola coach D.J. Lavarre said. We still had 34 minutes left of hockey, and we came back. They showed the heart of a lion today.
Michael Haubner scored the games final goal, when he halted the Ramblers rally with a goal with 4:34 left in the second.
Schmidt was solid in goal for the Lions, turning back 14 shots in the second period alone. He blanked Loyola in the first and third periods, recording a total of 30 saves.
The Lions will face a familiar foe in the title game, as it will be the fifth time they face St. Rita. The season series is tied 2-2.
I feel great getting to be a part of this team, we have a real strong group top to bottom, Decker said. Everyone gets along well, we are playing our best hockey now, we are just rolling.