BROOKLYN — Not much can beat a hot goalie in the playoffs.
Avon senior Joe Sefchik continued his solid run in the Baron Cup II playoffs Friday, allowing only a single goal as the Eagles posted a 2-1 win over North Canton Hoover at Brooklyn Recreation Center.
Avon, 26-3-1 in just its second year in the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League, will play for the title Sunday at 3 p.m. against Western Reserve, which downed Cleveland Heights 3-2 in double overtime Friday night.
“(Joe) has been on a roll, that’s for sure,” said Avon coach Nick Novakovic, whose team has won 14 straight. “He bailed us out with some really big saves and my hat is off to him.”
The Vikings, who also lost 4-1 and 3-2 to Avon in just the last month or so, came out aggressive, outshooting the Eagles 8-6 in the first period and finishing with a 35-18 advantage.
The tilt in scoring chances may have been slanted toward Hoover (14-9-2), but it mattered little as Sefchik came up with big save after big save.
Eric Novakovic got the Eagles on the board first with a score at the 3:21 mark of the first period. Shane Docherty had a shot from the left wing deflected by Hoover goalie Matt Zalewski (16 saves), but it went right to Novakovic, who went top shelf for the 1-0.
“It felt good getting that goal and getting the lead early,” Novakovic said of his 48th score of the year. “It’s always nice to start out with a lead and get some confidence for the team. It helped us out.”
The score stayed that way through the first, but a late interference penalty on Neal Novotny set up the Vikings at the start of the second period. Kyle Policicchio beat Sefchik off a beautiful crossing pass from Zach Lawson to knot the score at 1 just 12 seconds into the second period.
The Eagles have shown the ability to score shortly after giving up a goal all season and they did it again Friday.
The Eagles were pressuring the Vikings with several shots on goal when the puck deflected out to Pat Baeder at the point. He fired in a shot that deflected off a Hoover stick, floated up in the air and fell over the shoulder of Zalewski at 12:04 for the final score of the game.
“When you get into games like this you need a little bit of (luck),” Coach Novakovic said.
After Baeder’s score gave Avon the lead, the pressure began to build. Hoover tried forcing the issue as the clock crawled toward zero in the third period.
The Vikings had a chance to tie the game with 30 seconds left when Mike Magana found himself all alone on the left wing. But Sefchik was up to the task, sending the Eagles to their first Baron Cup II final.
“Stop the puck,” Sefchik said he said to himself on the play. “The game was on the line and you gotta make the save.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon 2, Hoover 1
FIRST PERIOD: (A) Eric Novakovic (Shane Docherty), 3:21. Penalties — (H) Ben Bishop (hooking), 14:17, (A) Christian Hironymous (roughing), 10:32, (A) Neal Novotny (interference), 0:14.
SECOND PERIOD: (H) Kyle Policicchio (Zach Lawson, Mike Magana), 14:48, (A) Pat Baeder (unassisted), 12:04. Penalties — (A) Dominic Bowlin (tripping), 6:40.
THIRD PERIOD: Penalties — (H) Bishop (holding), 12:32, (A) Alex Guzik (hooking), 7:41, (H) Spencer Mackert (interference), 0:03.
Hoover 0 1 0 — 1
Avon 1 1 0 — 2
Shots on goal: Avon 18 (7-6-5), Hoover 35 (8-12-15). Goalies: (A) Joe Sefchik (35 shots, 34 saves), (H) Matt Zalewski (18 shots, 16 saves). Power-play opportunities — Avon 0-3, Hoover 1-4.