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2015 OHSAA Ice Hockey State Final: St. Francis 3, St. Edward 1

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, OHIO – What a finish we had today in the 2015 OHSAA state hockey final.

Down 2-0 after two periods, Lakewood St. Edward desperately needed something positive early in the third period to start their rally. The Eagles got just what they were looking for, a power play goal off the stick Colin Price two minutes in. A nifty drop pass on the entry allowed Price a clean look at Phipps from atop the left face-off circle, and he snapped it off the crossbar and in to make it a 2-1 game.

The pace definitely picked picked up for coach Troy Gray’s team over the next few minutes and their forechecking game was a big factor. The Knights were no longer winning all the battles and controlling the pace — instead it was the Eagles dictating the proceedings and they nearly had the equalizer on a few occasions.

Phipps was the difference-maker in some tough situations for St. Francis and he came up with a few huge saves down the stretch to keep his team in front the rest of the way.

“We’re real glad we won the last game of the year,” said Knights head coach Chris Varga. “To be honest, it’s going to be great for the school. We’re looking forward to raising the banner at the rink and hopefully (next year) we can get back here again.

"All year it’s been important for us to get the first couple of goals and try to get a team on their heels right away. St. Ed’s is a great team…if they scored one goal or two goals and put us on our heels, this could’ve been a whole different thing. (After the 2-1 goal) I said don’t worry about it; we’ve been down before and we’ve come back and won.”

Varga was right, but it wasn’t without some drama en route to the final buzzer.

With 1:31 left in regulation, Knights forward Jay Denman collided with Hill after a shot attempt on the doorstep, and Denman received a roughing penalty that gave St. Edward a power play in the final minutes.

The Eagles got Hill to the bench for an extra attacker and 6-on-4 advantage in the final minute, but another turnover proved costly.

St. Francis jumped on a misplay at the blue line and broke out on a 2-on-1 that was cashed in by Mike White with 36.4 to play, setting the Knights up for their second-ever Ohio state hockey championship.

“Our offense, we were controlling the puck really well,” Phipps said. “The whole team played a good game all the way around. Three goals against St. Ed’s…you can’t ask for much more than that.

Other notes from the 2015 state final...

2ND PERIOD: State Final: St. Francis 2, St. Edward 0
The Knights held serve in the second period, and this time it was Eagles' goalie Warren Hill's turn to shine. With St. Francis putting heavy pressure on the Eagles, Hill made 12 saves in the second period alone. Arguably his best stop of the afternoon came midway through the frame when Knights' forward Ricky Kwapich weaved his way through the Eagles defense to break in alone and force Hill to make a nice stop with the right pad.

The Eagles also benefitted from a couple of good bounces to keep the game within two goals, as Knights forward Brian Hack hit the post twice just minutes apart.

Shots were 12-4 in favor of St. Francis for the period, 26-14 for the game, and the Eagles will need to generate more offense when they return for what could be the final period of the high school season. St. Francis, on the other hand, knows they are just a period away from their second state title.

1ST PERIOD: State Final: St. Francis 2, St. Edward 0
Toledo St. Francis and Lakewood St. Edward each had a lot to feel confident about coming off of convincing victories in the semifinal, but it was St. Francis that dominated at outset and jumped to an early lead.

The Knights logged the first four shots of the game and blitzed the Eagles in the opening minutes, opening the scoring just over three minutes in when Jay Denman redirected a Kyle Bloom shot that squirted between the pads of Eagles goaltender Warren Hill.

The goal also served to spark the Eagles, who registered their first shot on goal at 4:55 and then gave Knights goaltender Kade Phipps his first real test. Off a quick shot from the left face-off circle through traffic, the puck squibbed through traffic and behind Hill. The puck ricocheted off the post and came right out to Eagles forward Matt Duffy with a gaping net. Phipps lunged across from right to left and snagged the Duffy shot out of the air with his glove to preserve the Knights lead.

St. Edwards sustained the pressure, throwing five pucks in on Phillips over the next three minutes but unable to crack the Knights’ goalie. That’s when St. Francis padded their lead.

With Eagles forward Collin Mitchell off for interference, the St. Francis power play struck quickly. Mike White slid the puck to the right wing corner in the Eagles’ zone for Matt Barrow. Barrow walked out of the corner untouched and roofed a short-side wrister over the blocker of Hill to give St. Francis a 2-0 lead.

Phipps made several key stops down the stretch to keep the Eagles within two, including a close-wrange wrister by Knights forward Ricky Kwapich shortly after the Barrow goal.

Shots are 14-10 in favor of the Knights as the teams head to the locker room for the first intermission.

UPDATE: Here are the results of Thursday's semifinal games played at Nationwide Arena:

Semifinal #1: Toledo St. Francis de Sales 7, Hunting Valley University School 1

Semifinal #2: Lakewood St. Edward 2, Dublin Jerome 0

The tournament, which began with 82 teams, is down to its final four teams with the winners of each district – Toledo St. Francis de Sales from the Sylvania district, Hunting Valley University School from the Kent district, Lakewood St. Edward from the Brooklyn district and Dublin Jerome from the Columbus district - advancing to the semifinals. The complete schedule follows:

Saturday, March 14

10 a.m. – Senior All-Star Game

2 p.m. – OHSAA Championship Game

Blue Jackets broadcasters Bob McElligott and Jody Shelley will handle the duties for the championship game which will be televised on SportsTime Ohio (STO) with a tape-delayed broadcast on Saturday, March 14 at 11 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students (Thursday’s ticket is good for both semifinal games). All-tournament passes are $15 for adults and $11 for students. To order, call (800) 745-3000 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the Big Lots Box Office at Nationwide Arena.

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