By SHAWN RINE
WHEELING – When push came to shove, Linsly threw a couple haymakers.
Wheeling Park had just tied Sunday’s West Virginia state hockey championship game at WesBanco Arena 2-2 less than halfway through the second period, when the Cadets unleashed a barrage, scoring twice in 45 seconds and the rout was on. Linsly emerged with its second consecutive Bob Otten Trophy, winning going away, 8-2.
”That was the difference-maker for us,” Linsly coach Stefan Brannare said of the two quick goals. ”We’ve been talking about that all year, that when we score we’ve got to keep going, stick with the system and keep the pressure on.
”It doesn’t matter what the score is, you’ve got to stick to the details.”
Not a problem, obviously.
On a team loaded with stars, a handful shone brightest for Linsly on Sunday.
It starts with Mason George, who got the Cadets on the board with a pair of goals and went on to add two assists. Kaden Cook netted two more goals and assisted on another and Luke Edgerton had a goal and two assists.
”They’ve got some really talented players from not only Wheeling, but all over the world,” Park coach Logan Tharp said. ”They’ve got great coaching, they spread out and play a great defensive game.
”Our defense fell short, but the first period and a half I was very pleased with our game.”
After George spotted the Cadets the 1-0 lead with a beautiful play where he deked Park goaltender Noah Clune (23 saves) to the ice and deposited the puck on his backhand, the Patriots fought back as Hunter Pavelich skated down the left wing and ripped a wicked shot past Linsly goaltender Charles Machiko to knot things.
George put Linsly back in front as he gathered a rebound at the side of the net and punched it home, with the assist credited to David Coram. That began a stretch of four goals in a span of 1:18. The Patriots’ Michael Grove, who had earlier hit the crossbar with a backhand shot, beat Clune 5-hole to again tie the game.
”They were fired up,” Tharp said of his players’ disposition at that point. ”Our gameplan was to get pucks on net, but we ended with about half of what they did, so maybe if we could have got some more shots it would have been a different game.
”But to (the Cadets’) credit, they didn’t take their foot off the gas.”
Just the opposite, actually.
Jordan Patrick banged one in from close range on a George helper, and Cook went bar-down flying along the right wing for a 4-2 cushion. That was plenty for Machiko, Linsly’s freshman goaltender who was credited with 16 saves.
”He has really earned his time in the net. We’ve got two good goalies in Derek Hughes and Chuck who have been alternating most of the year,” Brannare said. ”They keep us in the game and they have responded well.”
Cook scored with 4:47 left in the second from Luke Edgerton and Brandon Henry (two assists) and defenseman Gian Oliver scored a back-breaker of a shorthanded goal on a Cole Edgerton assist just before the end of the period to make it 6-2.
Clemens Raitmayr and Luke Edgerton added third-period goals for to put the finishing touches on things.
”It’s been a long haul and finally we’ve had two good teams in a row at Linsly,” said Brannare, who used to play on the very ice where he celebrated Sunday as a member of the Wheeling Nailers. ”We’ve got a lot of leadership and a good, solid team.
”We did the things we wanted to accomplish this year. We wanted to win the private championship and we wanted to win this.”
Grove was named Park’s game Most Valuable Player while George earned the honor for Linsly. Wheeling Central’s Michael Tighe was selected as MVP of the entire tournament, which celebrated its 10th season and is named after Bob Otten, who started the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association. The Nick Bedway All-State team consists of the Cadets’ Luke Edgerton, George, Cook, Cole Edgerton, Henry, Oliver and Waltteri Raatikainen, as well as Wheeling Park’s Austin Curnes, Tyler Landis, Grove and Kyle Wensel. Also earning the nod was the John Marshall foursome of Josh Merriman, Jackie Gellner, Logan Landis and Mike Eskridge. Wheeling Central was represented by Ben Duplaga and Tighe.