St. John's Ray Morris celebrates a goal as Northview goalie Austin Gryca falls to the ice. The Titans beat Northview in double overtime Saturday night to win the district championship.
George Wilkinson transferred to St. John's Jesuit after his freshman year at Northview, a fellow power in northwest Ohio high school hockey.
The move, of course, drew heavy criticism from the Northview program, and Wilkinson has had to deal with jabs from his former teammates ever since.
Wilkinson, however, silenced all his critics and became the hero for St. John's last night, scoring the game-winner in double overtime to hand the Titans a 4-3 win over Northview in the district final in front of a capacity crowd at Tam O'Shanter.
"He's taken a lot of abuse from his old classmates, so really I don't think you could pick a better guy to get it done in this kind of situation than him," St. John's coach Mike Hayes. "I'm so happy for him."
After taking a pass near center ice from Ray Morris, the junior forward skated in from the left wing and wristed a shot that sailed over the left shoulder of Northview goalie Austin Gryca (32 saves) and into the top right corner of the net.
"It starts in the morning when you get up and think, wow this is the finals and it could be my last day," said Wilkinson, who finished with two goals and one assist.
"It's just a great experience. It's great to play with these guys, especially when you have a group of seniors like we do."
St. John's Ray Morris, top, and Kyle Knox, middle, jump onto teammate George Wilkinson after he scored the game-winning goal for the Titans at Tam O'Shanter in the district final.
St. John's opened the scoring just 18 seconds after the opening faceoff. After Morris dumped the puck into the Northview zone, Wilkinson centered the puck from behind the net, and Kyle Knox chipped it past Gryca.
Following insurance goals from Matt Wurst and Wilkinson, the Titans may have set the cruise control a little too soon with a 3-0 lead after two periods.
Matt Duvall triggered Northview's resurgence, scoring unassisted 1:16 into the third period. Duvall carried the puck in from the left boards with St. John's defenders draped all over him but still found a way to beat Titans goalie Christian Davis (21 saves) five-hole.
Kyle Hymore kept the momentum going the Wildcats' way minutes later, beating Davis at 5:01 to make it 3-2. Nile Culver carried the puck behind the net on the play and lasered a pass out front to Hymore, who was all alone.
The Wildcats appeared destined to come up just short, as Davis turned away several Northview chances as time wound down and the Titans were content to drop back and play defense the rest of the way.
But Hymore showed he had a little more magic up his sleeve, beating Davis on a breakaway with 2:10 remaining.
With his right foot barely touching the blue line, Hymore took a pass from Tyler Harding and skated in all alone. Davis managed to get a piece of the frozen rubber, but not enough as the puck trickled ever so slowly over the goal line for the equalizer.
"What a great game," Northview coach Mike Jones said. "Down 3-0, who woulda thunk?"
The Titans now move on to face Centerville in a state semifinal at 4 p.m. Saturday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, their first final four berth since winning a state championship two years ago.
"I think we ran a full gamut of emotions today," Hayes said. "We got off to a really good start, and I think our guys felt a little too good about themselves. But I'm proud of the way our guys battled back and dug deep and found a way."
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