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One period changes high school Nationals for Santa Margarita, OLu

 

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As well as Santa Margarita Catholic and Orange Lutheran played during round-robin action at the USA Hockey Youth Nationals, one rough first period in the playoffs cost both high school teams dearly.

The Eagles (pictured), who won the CAHA state championship last month, lost to Bayard Rustin of Westchester, Pa., 4-3 in the Division I title game in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 3.

The Lancers, who won the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League regular-season title, fell in the quarterfinals to Edwardsville, Ill., 6-4.

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“It’s disappointing,” Santa Margarita coach Craig Johnson said. “As a team, we set a goal to make it (to Nationals). To come so close to winning it …”

The Eagles held the lead for exactly 58 seconds, when Jesse Logan Orsini scored a short-handed goal with 3:51 left in the first period while SMCHS was killing off a 5-minute major. Bayard Rustin then connected for back-to-back power-play goals in a 1:24 span before the end of the first.

Bayard Rustin made it 3-1 with 1:15 to go in the second period before the Eagles rallied to tie it early in the third period behind goals from Ryan Johnson and Jonathan Skule in the first 3:57.

“Give the kids credit, they worked hard to tie it,” Johnson said.

But Bayard Rustin scored the winner with 5:57 to play after a scramble in front of the net.

“The program has come a long way,” Johnson said. “We had a great group of kids, not only on the ice, but how they created a culture that was inclusive, good toward the freshmen and those considering the school.

“We had great leadership from our seniors, and those kids will be missed a lot.”

The final was a rematch of round-robin game that Santa Margarita won 3-0. The Eagles rolled through the preliminary round with a 3-0 record and a plus-11 goal differential. They then defeated Pinnacle (Ariz.) 3-0 in the quarterfinals and Edwardsville 2-1 in overtime in the semifinals.

Jekabs Bisnieks had eight points and four goals, while Skule added seven points and Nicolas Mauthe, John Mulvihill II and Orsini added five apiece. Mauthe also scored four goals. Trey Taylor went 4-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and one shutout.

The Lancers also went undefeated in round-robin play, amassing a plus-10 goal differential in the process.

Their quarterfinal was a different story, however.

“We had a good game plan and a tough first period,” OLu coach Dan Adams said. “We had a good comeback to make it a game toward the end, but giving up three first-period goals hurt.

“We also gave up three power-play goals, which was something we weren’t used to doing because we had a strong penalty kill all year.”

Trailing 3-1 after the first and 4-1 at one point, Orange Lutheran began to rally behind late second-period goals from Jacob Furry and Zachary Pires. Edwardsville retook a two-goal lead early in the third before the teams traded late-period tallies. Had they won, the Lancers likely would have met the Eagles in the semifinals.

“That would have been fun,” Adams said. “Those are always good games.”

Goaltender Conner Taherian led the tournament with two shutouts, and his three wins tied for second and his .870 save percentage was fourth-best.

“Getting to Nationals was our goal,” Adams said. “It was the third year in a row we’d accomplished that, but we hadn’t fared as well the past two seasons. This year, we had a lot of seniors and the guys were really focused. The preparation was there on and off the ice.

“We played really well in pool play, particularly against Downing of Pennsylvania. That (2-0) win gave us a lot of confidence.”

Pires led Orange Lutheran with six points, while Furry added five and Vail Ardizzone chipped in four. Furry had a team-high three goals.

— Chris Bayee