WHEELING - After letting Wheeling Park be the aggressor for two periods and falling behind by a pair of goals, John Marshall's hockey team returned to the ice for the third period in a different mood Tuesday night.
It made all the difference in the world for the Monarchs.
Josh Merriman's goal with a two-man advantage at the 4:08 mark of overtime capped a spirited comeback for John Marshall as it rallied for a hard-hitting, physical 4-3 victory against the Patriots at WesBanco Arena.
While a big contributor to the triumph was the demeanor of Coach Anthony Evick's team in the third period and overtime, a loss of composure by Wheeling Park (3-4) only aided John Marshall's (4-4) cause.
After Logan Landis and Ben Coleman had scored goals less than two minutes apart early in the third period, play got a little chippy and carried over until the final horn in regulation sounded.
Due to a little extra activity after the horn, the Patriots were assessed a penalty, putting the Monarchs on the power-play to start the five-minute overtime session. Shortly after that another Park penalty made it a two-man advantage and Merriman took advantage of the situation with the game-winner on a helper from Landis.
"You have to remember that these are high school kids and emotions run high, especially when you get a couple of big rivals like this together," Evick said. "But I still believe that both of these teams respect each other, they just know coming in it is going to be a hard-hitting, physical game.
"At the same time, it is a big part of winning to be able to keep your composure throughout the entire game."
John Marshall wasted little time lighting the scoreboard early on, getting a Nick Fitzpatrick goal with 13:12 showing on assists from Jackie Gellner and Landis.
But it didn't take Park long to answer as Cameron Eberhard took a nice pass from Luke Knollinger and deposited into the net to knot the count at 1-1 just 13 ticks later.
The Patriots took the lead early in the second period with Tyler Landis slamming the goal into net from close range for a 2-1 upperhand before Hunter Pavlik made it a two-goal advantage a little more than two minutes later.
"We generated a lot of shots early and were able to get the lead," Park coach Logan Tharp said. "But we have to keep getting those shots throughout."
Logan Landis brought John Marshall within a goal on a quick shot off a faceoff in the Wheeling Park end at 11:40 and Coleman managed to slide one into net at 10:11 for the equalizer.
"They have a couple kids that can really move out there, and their speed caught us out of position a few times," Tharp added. "And when you put a team in a 5-on-3 situation at any time, the odds are that it is not going to turn out good for you.
"But overall I am proud of the kids' effort. I believe they gave all that they had."
Evick, on the other hand, was very happy with his team's play down the stretch.
"We played like our legs were dead the first two periods," Evick said. "But we came out in the third and outshot them by a 12-3 margin and scored a pair of goals to tie it.
"I think we were way too conservative in the opening two periods and we have to learn to get aggressive and stay aggressive. We played a pretty perfect third period, getting a little physical, but keeping it clean at the same time.
"It was just a matter of taking the play to them in the third period after letting them dictate what was happening for the first two. I also believe that Kyle Patrick did an outstanding job in net for us."
John Marshall outshot Park by a 27-19 margin.