St. Francis de Sales, the No. 1-ranked hockey team in the state, got all it could handle from St. John's Jesuit before the Knights prevailed in overtime Friday night.
Junior Tyler Murphy scored the game-winner with a power play goal 1:13 into OT to give St. Francis a 4-3 win before a capacity crowd of about 2,000 at Tam O'Shanter.
"It's the best feeling ever," Murphy said. "We were trying to get the win for the seniors. It was a scrum out front and it bounced to my stick. I couldn't describe how big this is."
St. Francis (25-1-3) solidified its position atop the Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division, moving to 6-0-0.
Fourth-ranked St. John's (15-6-3) rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie it at 3 entering the third period, but still fell to 5-1-1 in the division.
"Being as high as what the state has ranked us, it's a huge win for us," St. Francis coach Brian Kinsella said. "It was a hard fought game. It was great for the fans."
St. Francis captain Scott Loy had a goal and an assist. Defenseman David Torchia also had a goal and an assist, while Bryce Connor had two assists. Knight senior goalie Jeff Davis finished with 18 saves.
St. John's got goals from George Wilkinson, Andrew Garzony, and Kyle Knox. Senior goalie Mike
Brahaney made 26 saves.
The game winner came moments after it appeared the puck had hit the netting above the glass in the Titan end which prompts play to be halted. But no whistle was blown.
"It was clear and all of our guys stopped," St. John's coach Mike Hayes said. "But it's still up to us. The whistle didn't blow."
Down by two early in the second period, the Titans rallied to tie it. Garzony got his own rebound and scored on the backhand 2:46 into the period. Knox then knotted it at 3 when he one-timed a cross pass from Devin Hayes.
St. John's then had two power plays late in regulation after big hits by Wil Hartkopf and Ben Torchia led to penalties that Kinsella questioned.
The Titans had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:04, but the Knights negated it.
"We were emotional after we killed that," Kinsella said.
St. Francis, which is the top team in the state coaches' poll, played a bit choppy throughout much of the game.
"We did not come with our 'A' game but we still battled through and won," Kinsella said. "We were a little rusty and didn't play up to our capability. St. John's played a great game."
But the Knights went up 1-0 just
2:55 in when Loy scored on the power play.
St. John's then tied it when Wilkinson scored a power-play goal four minutes later. Wilkinson skated into the slot and blasted a slapper over Davis' left shoulder.
"My guys came to play for 45 minutes," Hayes said. "I'm proud of our effort. I'm disappointed we didn't win. They are the real deal."
But just 18 seconds into another power play, St. Francis regained the one-goal edge as David Torchia scored with 2:20 left in the first. Torchia tipped it through some bodies out front on an assist from Connor.
The Knights seized a 3-1 lead when Ben Torchia was in front of the goal crease and jammed one home 1:18 into the middle period.
St. Francis then appeared to sit back and did not have much flow.
"I had to yell at some of my star players between periods," Kinsella said.
In the scoreless third period, both goalies made solid saves to keep it tied. Davis stopped a 2-on-1 breakway early in the period with a pad save. Brahaney then stoned Ben Torchia on a solo breakaway.
St. Francis is seeking its first NHC title since 1999, while St. John's is the defending champs. The teams meet again on Feb. 12.
"This was very exciting for us," Kinsella said. "We wanted to keep our record at one loss. We don't look at the standings too much. We try to focus on one game at a time and then focus on the stats later. But it's nice for our kids. "
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