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Years of disappointment and frustration melted away into jubilation and euphoria for the Northview hockey program March 11 when the Wildcats skated around Nationwide Arena in Columbus with the school's first state championship trophy.
Northview dropped powerhouse Cleveland St. Edward 5-2 in the title game. It was the ninth trip to the state final four and fifth appearance in the championship game for the Wildcats.
Before a crowd of 2,255, the Wildcats finally broke through with the school's first team state title in any sport.
Northview (31-1-3) wrapped up the season with an 18-game winning streak. St. Edward had won a record 11 state titles, while Northview had finished second four times (2010, 2006, 1990 and 1982).
Sophomore Cody Estrel tallied two goals as the Wildcats seized an early 2-0 lead. Junior Drew Crandall, senior Dalton Carter, and junior Nick LaPlante added subsequent goals.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world," Estrel said. "We'll always be in the history books."
Senior goalie Austin Gryca (16-0-1) had 26 saves. Senior Zach Felser had two assists with both coming on the critical first two goals.
Carter, a team captain, led the Wildcats with 59 points (33 goals, 26 assists) this season. Felser was second with 57 points (21 G, 36 A), while Estrel was third with 46 (22 G, 24 A).
Phil Bowles, the team's other senior goalie, set a single-season team record with his eighth shutout in leading Northview to a 6-0 win over Lewis Center Olentangy Orange in the state semifinals.
Coach Mike Jones dedicated the win to longtime coach Jim Cooper, who founded the program in 1976. Cooper, who joined the celebration on the ice, led the Wildcats to the title game in 2006.
"This is his trophy, his state title," Jones said.
Northview outscored its foes 158-46 and became the first public school to win the championship since Shaker Heights won in 2001.
It was the third time in the last six years that a team from northwest Ohio won the title -- St. Francis de Sales won in 2011 and St. John's Jesuit took it all in 2007.
Northview had to hold off St. John's 2-1 to win the district title. The Wildcats also won the regular-season and playoff titles in the Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division.
In the NHC White Division, which was subdivided into four-team groupings, Anthony Wayne (7-3-0) won the National Conference and Bedford (9-1-0) won the American.
In the White Division postseason tournament, Maumee defeated Anthony Wayne 6-5 to win the playoff championship.
Lake (8-0-0) won the Blue Division regular-season title, while Springfield took the tournament championship.