After a long, but exciting high school hockey season, only two teams remain, as both East Lake High School and Mitchell High School will face off Wednesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to claim the Lightning Cup Championship.
The puck drops on the title game at 7:40 p.m., but in fact, each team’s road to the final were long in the making.
A TALE OF TWO TEAMS
East Lake finished atop the Lightning Conference standings this year with a record of 17-2-0 and a conference-best 34 points.
Its 165 goals for scored on the year ranked second, behind only Newsome High School’s 178. Meanwhile, East Lake was just as good at the other end of the rink, allowing only 48, which tied for the fewest.
Come Wednesday, East Lake will look to defend its title, as the club also won last year’s championship in 2012.
East Lake’s competitor set for Wednesday’s championship game, Mitchell, finished second in the final regular season standings, posting a mark of 15-2-2, good for 32 points.
Like East Lake, Mitchell’s offense was also prolific, lighting the lamp 134 times on the year which came in third in that category. It matched East Lake’s total for goals allowed on the year with 48.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
East Lake reached Wednesday’s final by defeating Sarasota High School in the quarterfinal, 7-5, and then beat River Ridge in the semifinal held Monday at the Times Forum by a score of 7-3.
Mitchell beat Wharton High School by way of a 6-0 shutout before also defeating Jesuit High School in Monday’s semifinal at the Times Forum, 6-4.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
East Lake’s Zane Katz was this season’s team points leader, finishing with 18 goals and 31 assists in 18 games played.
Austin Teall was last season’s Lightning Cup MVP, and finished the year with 21 goals and 19 assists in 15 games.
Lastly for East Lake, goaltender David Johnson posted 17 wins, including three shutouts while posting a goals-against average of 2.54.
Mitchell’s Evan Lugo emerged as this season’s team leading scorer, registering 25 goals and 22 assists.
Reed Nichols also had 21 goals and as many assists during the regular season for Mitchell, while Joey Robison manned the nets, posting 14 wins, four shutouts and a 2.18 goals-against average.
It is worth noting, too, that each player mentioned above was also named to the Lightning Conference All-Star Team.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING CUP
Wednesday’s championship matchup between East Lake and Mitchell marks the fourth consecutive year that the Tampa Bay Times Forum will play host to a high school hockey championship, single-elimination tournament.
The Lightning Conference is comprised of 18 Bay Area high schools, with the final two clubs remaining at the end of the season facing off for the Lightning Cup Championship.
Teams are either "pure" (all players attending the same school) or "combined" (players from more than one high school). The Lightning Conference is divided into two divisions: the Central Division—generally schools east and south of I-275 — and the Western Division—generally schools west and north of I-275.