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  • Travis Napper

Highlights! Knights Skate Away With The 2021 OHSAA State Championship!

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

In a brutal dogfight from start to finish that saw eight total penalties between teams, multiple big hits, and intense wrist shots from the blue line, the St. Edwards Eagles and the Toledo St. Francis Desales Knights put on a state finals game worthy of a No. 1 and No. 2 facing off against one another as the Knights beat the Eagles 2-1 to take home the title. But if you ask Knights head coach Chris Varga this was a championship he wasn’t quite expecting.

“We never expected to win, we just have the mentality to try and work harder than you, and the chips fall where they may,” he said after the game.

That sentiment seemed to be shared among some players such as Devon Homier and goalie Jackson Smalley. Both expressed how it “felt like a dream” and was a “dream come true” to be in this position and be able to win the championship. But it didn’t come without a fight as St. Edwards gave the Knights all they could handle with aggressive hits and plenty of big-time scoring opportunities.

Early on in the first period, both teams showed what the pace for the game would be, garnering two penalties each. St. Francis would benefit from one of those opportunities to take a 1-0 lead with 8:12 to go off a Homier goal and they would carry the lead for the rest of the period.

Leading into the second, St. Francis spent a majority of the period on their heels fighting out of their own zone as the Eagles would rack up seven shots on goal on top of the 11 they had in the first period. St. Edwards would capitalize early with an even-strength goal from Jack Mansour with 13:18 left on the clock. But the story of the second was similar to the story in the first. Penalties were a huge factor throughout as the Eagles took another one to bring their total to three penalties after two periods.

The third period, however, is where things really got heated as both teams combined for the final three penalties of the game, two against St. Edwards and one against St. Francis. But it was one of the penalties against the Eagles that would ultimately be the deciding factor as Luc Kuhr netted the game-winner with 9:05 left in the game. Even as the period came to a close, however, the Eagles did not go down without a fight, pulling goalie Evan Wrightsman out of the net with a little over a minute remaining to give them a six-on-five advantage.

Homier said at that point, “I’ve never been more nervous in my life” when asked about how he felt when Wrightsman left the ice. Varga, though, explained that they practiced for those types of situations during the season.

Multiple shot opportunities were sent off the pads of Smalley as St. Edwards brought the kitchen sink and more. The Eagles, however, just couldn’t find the back of the net to send the game into overtime. As the final horn sounded, gloves and helmets scattered the ice as the Knights celebrated the hard-fought win.

When the dust settled, St. Francis had taken 16 shots and defended 24. They didn’t fare so well in the faceoff category winning 34-of-61 faceoffs compared to the 37 for St. Edwards. But at the end of the day, coming off last year where this moment was never even achieved as COVID-19 halted the semifinals from even taking place, the true winner was high school hockey as a whole for getting to see such an incredible game and a champion crowned.

“The road to get here for all the teams in the final four was messy, every team dodged bullets just to play to next weekend,” Varga said.

Indeed that was case as St. Francis dodged all the bullets and came out on top.

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