Northview will represent northwest Ohio at the state hockey tournament for the fourth time in the last eight seasons.
The defending state champion Wildcats upset top-seeded St. John’s Jesuit 3-2 on Saturday to capture the program’s 10th district title.
Northview will play Powell Olentangy Liberty in the state semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Patriots (27-6-4) defeated Dublin Jerome 4-3 in overtime for a district title.
Northview (26-6-2), which has played in the state final four in three of the last four seasons, finished the regular season ranked fifth in the state poll.
Olentangy Liberty, ranked eighth, has made just one other appearance in the state semifinals (2011).
Northview captured the school’s first team state title in any sport last year and has finished second four times (2010, 2006, 1990, and 1982) since adding the sport in 1976.
But Northview coach Mike Jones said the advantage in tradition doesn’t guarantee victory.
“There is no time to sit around and feel good about yourself,” Jones said. “You have to do what you’ve been doing and keep working hard.”
Olentangy Liberty has outscored its foes 23-3 in the tournament. The Patriots have scored 177 goals overall and have given up only 58.
“I know it’s an elite hockey club that scores a lot of goals and doesn’t give up any,” Jones said. “It’s not going to be easy. This will be a huge test.”
Northview survived its biggest test thus far by rallying past No. 2-ranked St. John’s. Senior co-captain Zander Pryor tied it with 3:51 left, then scored the game-winner just 14 seconds later.
“Obviously it was the best night of my life,” Pryor said. “The emotions and the way the team came together was the best I could ever imagine.”
On the tying goal, Nick LaPlante backhanded a pass from behind the net out to Kooper Carter, whose slap shot was stopped. But Pryor scored on the rebound.
“We call those greasy goals,” Jones said. “You have to go to the tough places to get those.”
Then Pryor won the ensuing faceoff, and Cody Estrel rushed in up the middle of the ice and got a backhanded shot away. Pryor was there for the rebound once again.
Pryor leads the team in points (61) and assists (42).
“We are not focused on what happened last Saturday, we are now focused on what will happen this weekend,” he said.
The Wildcats have scored 159 goals and has given up just 60. Junior goalie David Marsh stopped 34 shots to get the win in the district final.
“He’s just very humble and wants to do it for the guys in front of him,” Jones said.
Shaker Heights, which was ranked fourth, takes on Rocky River in the other semifinal. Rocky River upset top-ranked Cleveland St. Ignatius 3-1 in the district semifinals.
It is the first time since 1984 that the final four are all public schools.
“That’s been a point of pride for us from day one,” Jones said. “This is our kids’ program. They get out of it what they put into it. I don’t want to trade our roster with anyone.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.