Defending state champion Northview made an emphatic statement that they are determined to return to Columbus with a rout of Findlay in a district semifinal on Saturday.
Northview scored four unanswered goals in a span of nine minutes, 43 seconds in the opening period after trailing 1-0 early but went on to blast the Trojans 8-3 at Tam-O-Shanter.
Northview advances to the district final to once again to take on St. John's Jesuit next Saturday. The Wildcats defeated the Titans 2-1 to capture the district title en route to a state championship last March.
Northview has outscored its first two foes 18-3 in the tournament.
“Going into this year, we expected to be in this game next Saturday night,” Northview coach Mike Jones said. “But we've had some trials and tribulations and we're starting to climb that mountain now.”
Northview senior Nick LaPlante scored two goals in the first period.
Zander Pryor, who had two goals and an assist, tallied Northview's first goal and Caleb Rau gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. Ian Clement, Zack Galecki, and Bailey Breitigam also scored for Northview (25-6-1), while Cody Estrel had three assists.
Northview goalie David Marsh had 18 saves. The Wildcats finished with a 30-21 edge in shots.
Findlay opened the scoring just 1:30 in as Noah Hindall scored on a rebound.
“We've faced adversity, so what's a goal in the first minute?,” Jones said. “I could tell you that goal wasn't going to stand. I couldn't say we were going to win the hockey game, but I knew that wouldn't stand. We got the goal right back.”
Northview answered 26 seconds later when Pryor beat Findlay goalie Alex Woolley (22 saves). Pryor skated in all alone and backhanded a shot through Woolley's legs.
“That was a huge part of this victory,” Pryor said. “We had to do something. We picked it up and got the momentum back.”
After killing off a Trojan power play, the Wildcats put together an extremely effective power play with six shots on goal. Rau cashed in on assists from Tyler Dewitt and Xavier Sudlow for a 2-1 Northview lead. The Wildcats never trailed again.
LaPlante, who also had an assist, scored the first of his consecutive goals with 7:22 left in the period. He added another on a delayed penalty with 3:31 left in the opening period. He tipped in a shot by Estrel.
“We knew we would not be down for long,” LaPlante said. “There was no doubt at all. We felt good. We knew we took over the game.”
In a lackluster second, Northview finally struck again when Clement scored with 2:05 left. Findlay's Mason Williams scored just before the horn sounded to cut Northview's lead to 5-2.
Pryor, the Northview captain, scored an unassisted shorthanded goal with 7:26 left in regulation for a 7-2 cushion. The Trojans responded moments later as Andy Martin scored unassisted while falling to the ice to make it 7-3.
Northview added another shorthanded goal when Bailey Breitigam scored with 2:01 left.
Ten players on the Wildcat roster registered points.
“We get contributions from three lines,” Jones said.
“It's nice to see all those guys chip in because they worked as hard as anyone. You need that depth.”
The teams had split during the regular season. The Wildcats topped the Trojans 4-2 on Jan. 12. Findlay avenged that loss with a 4-3 win against a depleted Northview team in overtime on Feb. 1.
“We've had a lot of people tell us we don't belong this year and that sticks with these kids,” Jones said. “Nobody likes to be told they aren't good enough.”
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