COLUMBUS — With dogged determination, Northview took one stride closer to defending its state hockey title with a spirited rally Friday.
Olentangy Liberty scored two goals in the first 7:08 of the game, but Northview rallied to top the Patriots 4-2 in a state semifinal at Nationwide Arena.
Senior Zander Pryor had two goals and an assist. Senior Drew Crandall had a goal and an assist, while senior Nick LaPlante tallied the game-winner. Northview goalie David Marsh settled in and finished with 18 saves.
Northview (27-6-1) will take on Shaker Heights (27-7-0) in the final at 7 p.m. today. The Wildcats defeated Shaker Heights 3-2 on Dec. 30.
“We are Northview and we take a ton of pride in that,” Wildcats coach Mike Jones said. “That isn't an arrogant comment. It's one of pride and togetherness. We are going to fight to the end.”
LaPlante scored the game winner 5:15 into the third period at Nationwide Arena where a large student section went wild. LaPlante's power play goal came on a powerful slapshot that clanged off the iron and went in.
“It felt great to keep the momentum going our way,” LaPlante said. “We always talk about getting shots through. We had guys in front and the goalie was screened.”
The Wildcats allowed two odd-man rushes that led to two early goals.
But Northview tied it up at 2 with goals from Crandall and Pryor in the second period. Crandall scored on a one timer off of a quick feed across the goalmouth from Pryor. Crandall scored his team-high 37th goal of the season to make it 2-1 with 11:31 left in second.
“I saw a lane in the middle … I sent it across because I knew Drew would be back door,” Pryor said. “We've done that all year. It's a trust thing.”
Pryor then tied it with a shorthanded, unassisted goal with 59 seconds left in the second period. A bad clear by Patriots freshman goalie Cam Perry allowed him to score into an open net. Perry (18 saves) left his net and tried to clear the puck up the boards.
“That was all Suddy [Xavier Sudlow pressuring]. I was just in a good spot,” Pryor said. “I was lucky the goalie put it on my stick.”
Jones said the coaching staff “circled the wagons in the locker room” after the first period. He said the tying goal “inflated us.”
“It gave us more jump. It gave us a huge gust,” Jones said. “That's when this team is good. When they are loose and flying.”
With 5:14 left, Marsh made four consecutive saves in a matter of seconds to protect the lead during a scramble in front of his net.
“I just knew I had to do everything I could for my team,” Marsh said.
Pryor added an empty net goal with 0.7 seconds left. He has 65 points, including 44 assists, this season.
The Patriots' Kyle Horner capped a two-on-one break, beating Marsh 2:01 into the game. They took a 2-0 lead as Noah Allmaras got behind the Wildcat defense and got one by Marsh with 7:42 left in the first.
The Wildcats, who were ranked fifth in the final state poll, also had to rally to upset No. 2 St. John's Jesuit in the district final.
“We don't panic,” Marsh said. “We just trust each other. I knew everyone in the locker room would get it done for me.”
Shaker Heights defeated Rocky River 4-2 in the first semifinal. The No. 4-ranked Red Raiders scored two late goals to break open a tight game.
“Shaker is an elite hockey club,” Jones said. “That game earlier means absolutely nothing. It's two teams that have been through trials and tribulations since. It's going to be a war.
"We need a better start. We need a more consistent effort.”
The Northview players have all dyed their hair yellow just as they did last year when they took home the school's first team state title in any sport.
The program, which started in 1976, had finished second four times (2010, 2006, 1990, and 1982). The Wildcats are back in Columbus for the fourth time in the last eight seasons.
“Our locker room was pretty quiet for just advancing to the state final,” Jones said. “And that means they aren't content and satisfied. There's more work to be done.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.