Thanks to the fortuitous path traveled by a puck late in regulation play, and Kelsey Zeto's game-winning goal 6:12 into the second overtime last night at Tam O'Shanter, Findlay will make its first trip to the state hockey semifinals since 1994.
The Trojans (19-9-1) needed Jon Runion's goal with 30 seconds left in the third period, scored with goaltender Kyle Settlemire pulled for an extra skater, to tie the game, and Zeto's tally gave them a 3-2 win over St. John's Jesuit in the state quarterfinals.
“I knew I had to put it in,” Zeto said. “I had so many chances, and this was the biggest one. This was the one that counted, the one that's taking us to state.
“We try to put people around the net and see where the puck is coming from. It came my way and I knew, once it was on my stick, I couldn't miss it. I had to put it away.”
On the tying goal, Runion, who also scored Findlay's first goal of the game 8:36 into the second period to pull the Trojans within 2-1, fired a long slap shot straight on from 15 feet inside the blue line.
The puck needed to find its way through a myriad of bodies en route to the goal behind well-screened Titan goalie Jeff Landry.
“That goal kind of filled the fuel inside of us,” 24th-year Findlay coach Mike Root said. “It gave us more momentum. Going in [to overtime], that was psychologically to our advantage.”
After the teams went scoreless through the first eight-minute sudden-death overtime period, a third extra period looked to be probable until Zeto pounced on a rebound in the right circle and flipped the puck over Landry's glove and just inside the right post.
Tyler Curlis and Dan DeLaCruz earned assists on the winning score.
“We tried to counter their speed by playing [good] position,” Root said. “And I said, `Just be disciplined and patient,' and that's basically what we did.”
Findlay will face the winner of today's state quarterfinal between Lakewood St. Edward and Cleveland St. Ignatius at 1 p.m. next Saturday at the Bowling Green State University Ice Arena.
The Trojans won state titles in 1978 and '83, and lost 4-3 to St. Edward in three overtimes in their last appearance in '94.
Matt Jones went high on Settlemire's stick side on an assist pass from Jake Zechman for St John's first goal 10:17 into the first period.
The Titans made it 2-0 on Matt Henson's unassisted goal 5:16 into the second period, scored from the high slot while Henson was falling backward.
“We had our chances to bury them in overtime and we couldn't finish it up, and they got the break,” Titan coach Gary Stern said.
“It was two great teams playing a great game. Someone had to win and someone had to lose.”
Landry made 23 saves.
Settlemire had 19.
BOWLING GREEN 8,
The Bobcats (27-3-1), champions of the Northwest Hockey Conference, will make their 17th trip to the state semifinals thanks to three goals from Brandon Piersol and two from Kevin Rawlik.
Eric Curtiss had 20 saves while recording the shutout.
Bowling Green, which won state championships in 1980, '84, '91, '97, '98 and '99, will play the winner of today's state quarterfinal between defending state-champion Shaker Heights and Hunting Valley University School 4 p.m. next Saturday at BGSU.