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  • Codey Larsen

Eagles Soar to First Final Four

DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story has a new competitor when it comes to the ultimate underdog story.

Al Michaels once asked, “Do you believe in miracles?”

The answer: yes.

On Saturday afternoon in front of a nearly sold-out crowd at the OhioHealth Ice Haus, the No. 4 seeded New Albany Screaming Eagles defeated the No. 3 seed Olentangy Liberty Patriots, 4-2, to win their first district title in program history. Eagles goalie Max Dupler led the way, saving 51 out of 53 shots on goal. For Liberty, this is the third consecutive year that they will finish as the runner-up.

The atmosphere of the game set the tone early. Much to one of a big fight feel. Chants of “scoreboard”, “you can’t do that”, and other phrases were echoing throughout the Ice Haus -- or as ScoreOnAir’s Adam Dell said to begin the broadcast, “250 feet from Nationwide Arena” -- by both teams' respective fans. The first period was reminiscent of that. Literal and figurative body blows and punches by both teams set the scene for an all-time main event.

Coming into the game, Liberty thumped Gahanna Lincoln 10-0 in the first game they played, then notched a decisive win over Olentangy Berlin 4-1 in the next round, and finally a gutsy 7-4 victory over Olentangy Orange.

Meanwhile, New Albany opened up the tournament by beating Watterson 11-1, then scrapped by with a 4-3 overtime win in the next round against a surprising Dublin Coffman team.

The story kept writing itself when the Eagles beat Upper Arlington, 3-2, and gave the Golden Bears their first loss of the season. Entering that matchup, UA was 36-0-1 and the number two ranked team in the state.

To start today’s game, the Patriots threw out early haymakers against the Eagles, but neither team scored in the opening period.

The second period, on the other hand, was an entirely different story.

The first three minutes were dominated by the Patriots, with Liberty’s Korey Raymond getting the game’s first goal.

Then, the type of thing they put into a movie happened.

In the span of just 10 game-minutes, New Albany scored three unanswered goals. Forward Zach Blaney was the first to tally, with his 10th of the season; forward Brandon Barash was next in line, scoring his 17th goal of the season, and finally, forward Jackson Buss scored his 24th goal of the 2019-2020 season.

After that huge momentum shift, the crowd came alive with chants of “scoreboard” and “Duuuuu”-- referencing Dupler.

The third period saw no goals until Raymond scored with 44 seconds left to make it a 3-2 game. It was Raymond’s second goal of the game and 22nd of the season and the Patriots’ crowd was no longer deflated. The mood shifted and an “uh oh” moment happened with all of the Eagles’ fans.

However, the Eagles put all doubt to rest when forward Matthew Moellering scored his team-leading 30th goal on an empty net with eight seconds left.

Despite being outshot 53-24, New Albany managed to get the puck past Liberty goalie Andrew Vidrick four times. Vidrick came into the game with a 1.89 GAA and 92% save percentage. The Patriots finished the season 25-6-5 and will go back to the drawing board to figure out how to get over the hump next season. The Eagles will play Toledo St. Francis Desales in the state semifinals on March 14 at Nationwide Arena.

If you missed the game in person, catch the game in its entirety here:

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