ELYRIA — Cher would have been proud.
If the pop diva was at North Park Ice Rink when Elyria Catholic played Westlake in a crucial Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League game, she’d have seen the referees actually turn back time.
Senior Colin Lester had a big night for the Panthers (12-8, 4-4 White West Division), scoring a goal and assisting on two in the Panthers’ 3-0 win over the Demons (15-10-1, 5-4). But it was confusion in the second period that caused Westlake coach John Duke to stew, and caused 1:40 of action to be replayed after a Demons goal was erased.
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It all started with 10:01 remaining in the period when Panthers forward Stephen Donat and Westlake defenseman Ben Thurstone were assessed matching penalties. Donat went to the penalty box, Thurstone went to the bench.
Less than two minutes later, Thurstone ripped a slap shot from the right point that beat Panthers goalie Luke Farmer and appeared to give Westlake a 1-0 lead.
It was not to be.
Panthers coach Rick Montgomery called the officials over to his bench and pointed out Thurstone, the goal scorer, was supposed to be in the penalty box. After a 20-minute delay, in which the officials consulted the scoring sheet twice and discussed the situation at length, the officials decided to hit the rewind button.
They went back to the point of the matching penalties, put both players in the penalty box, reset the clock to 10:01 and started the action again.
“Words escape me,” Duke said of the referees’ decision. “I have never seen that in sports in my life. I have no idea where that decision came from, but that was tough to take. I thought it was a great hockey game up to that point. After that … not so much.”
The game remained scoreless through the second period and well into the third before Lester finally broke through. With the Panthers on a power play, he collected a clearing pass from Lester, flew down the right side of the ice and walked in on Demons goalie Joe Guay.
He pulled the puck to his backhand side, then slid it through Guay’s legs to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead with 5:32 left in the game.
“I got to the edge and just jammed it into the goal,” Lester said. “When I saw the puck go between his legs I started screaming. It was amazing.”
Just over a minute later, with Elyria Catholic again on a power play, Lester and David Kukucka set up William Gentry, who collected the puck when there was a scramble in front of the Westlake net and zipped it past a sprawling Guay at the 4:03 mark.
Kukucka closed the scoring with 32 seconds left in the game on a goal assisted by Lester and Taylor Reaser.
“I’m really proud of how we played tonight,” Montgomery said. “We played hard and won the game the right way. This was a big win for us and the kids never stopped. It was a physical game with a lot of penalties, but we did what we had to do.
“I think that was the most important thing … it was a physical game but we kept our composure and played solid hockey. We didn’t let anything that was happening on the ice get to us.”
The win kept Elyria Catholic’s playoff hopes alive. The Panthers, winners of four straight, now have a game in hand over Westlake and have swept the Demons this season to own the tiebreaker. The Panthers host North Olmsted (4-5 White West) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Brecksville (4-4) on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Both teams already have wins over the Panthers this season, but Elyria Catholic still controls its own destiny.
“This was an amazing night,” Lester said. “We got a win on Senior Night and are playing well. We aren’t worrying about the playoffs … that will take care of itself. We’re just focusing on playing each game one at a time and doing it the right way.”
Elyria Catholic 3, Westlake 0
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring. Penalties — EC, Stephen Donat (roughing), 12:24; W, Bench (too many men), 10:16; W, Kent Axcell (interference), 9:55; EC, Jack Walter (holding), 9:32.
SECOND PERIOD: No scoring. Penalties — EC, Walter (hooking), 12:42; W, Rudy Keppler (interference), 11:14; EC, Donat (slashing), 10:01; W, Ben Thurstone (roughing), 10:01; W, Brendan Teets (interference), 9:51; W, Colin Adams (cross-checking), 9:00; EC, Colin Lester (tripping), 5:45; W, Paul Freedman (roughing), 5:08; EC, Donat (roughing), 4:15; W, Axcell (roughing), 4:15.
THIRD PERIOD: 1. EC, Colin Lester (Luke Farmer), 5:32; 2. EC, William Gentry (David Kukucka, Lester ), 4:03. 3. EC, Kukucka (Lester, Taylor Reaser), :32.1. Penalties — EC, Donat (roughing), 9:08; W, Axcell (interference), 6:52; W, Nate Greenberg (roughing), 6:53; EC, Kukucka (roughing), 6:52; W, Teets (slashing), 6:04; EC, Donat (roughing), 4:50; W, Axcell (roughing), 4:50; W, Teets (slashing), 2:30; W, Greenberg (cross-checking), 36.3; W, Adams (cross-checking), 15.9.
Westlake 0 0 0 — 0
Elyria Catholic 0 0 3 — 3
Shots on goal: Westlake 8-7-7 —22, Elyria Catholic 7-9-18—34. Goalies: (W) Joe Guay (34 shots, 31 saves); (EC) Luke Farmer (22 shots, 22 saves). Power-play opportunities: Westlake 0 of 4, Elyria Catholic 3 of 8.
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.