Wheeling Central Secures 3-Peat

Edgerton leads rally with hat trick

Photo by Cody Tomer Central’s Andrew Vecchio (left) and Park’s Christian Nestor fight for possession.

WHEELING–The heart of a champion is revealed the most when it is faced with struggle.

Wheeling Central put that heart on full display during Monday’s 14th Annual Bob Otten Tournament Championship at WesBanco Arena.

For the second consecutive year, the Maroon Knights found themselves trailing by multiple goals late in the championship, only to deliver a remarkable comeback victory.

On Monday, it was rival Wheeling Park holding a 2-0 lead with just over 10 minutes to play, when Central exploded for six unanswered goals to skate away with a 6-2 win and the Bob Otten Trophy.

It’s the third straight title for the Knights, who overcame a 3-goal deficit a year ago in a championship win over Linsly.

“There was no panic,” Central coach Zack Stahl said. “I just told them to have patience, keep shooting the puck and believing in themselves. Not one time on the bench did we get down and a lot of that is mental. If you just stay the course and believe in yourselves, you’ll be alright.”

The game’s Most Valuable Player came through in the clutch as junior Chase Edgerton needed just the final 7:21 of the game to net three goals for the hat trick.

“The coaches reminded us every time that we came off the bench to never give up,” Edgerton said. “Every year we have a team that works until the end and I am grateful for that.

“We aren’t the most skilled team but we work our tails off and that paid off for us in the end.”

Wheeling Park goalie Dorothy Romanek was flawless in the crease. She held the defending champions scoreless until the 10:43 mark of the third and accumulated 34 saves in the game.

“We knew we had to battle,” Park coach Grant Van Laar said. “Dorothy stood on her head for us (Monday). There were probably 30 point-blank shots on her. She is a competitor and has always been there for us.

“She is the one that battles and she gave us a chance in this one. We just didn’t finish.

“Instead of taking care of our lead in the third, we tried to build on it. We had Central frustrated but we started watching the puck. They kept going and we didn’t. We played hard for two periods but we let them kick open the door and they booted it open.”

Wheeling Central goalie Jacob Laurine was also brilliant as he stopped 26 shots in the win.

Special teams was pivotal in the title bout as both teams combined for three power play goals and Central added one short-handed netter.

Wheeling Park provided the first two power play goals of the night when Jason Gwynn found teammate Elijah Pissos, who rang the bell with 2:54 left on the clock in the opening frame.

At the seven minute mark of the second period, Gwynn gathered up a rebound in front of the net and put home Park’s second power play goal for the 2-0 advantage.

The goalies continued to showcase their skills until the Knights finally struck paydirt.

Junior Clay Slyder was the first to light the lamp for Central as he raced down the slot, receiving a pass from Kyle Newmeyer and sent a one-timer into the back of the net.

Edgerton followed just over three minutes later with the equalizer on an assist from Chris Furka.

“Their goalie was standing on her head and she was unreal,” Edgerton said. “We just needed that first goal and then my teammates just gave me the puck and I worked hard to put it in the back of the net.”

With the game deadlocked and Wheeling Park on the power play, Central senior Chase Kelly proved why he was named the team captain.

Kelly took control of the puck and then took control of the game as he raced down the ice and fired what would be the game-winning shot into the cage for the 3-2 edge with 6:13 to play.

“As a senior, I wasn’t really nervous because we did it last year,” Kelly said. “Our team had the fight this whole game and I knew we were going to comeback. I just had this feeling deep in my gut that we weren’t going to quit.”

After the short-handed goal gave Central its first lead of the game, Edgerton supplied the insurance with a pair of late goals to complete the trifecta.

“I had a talk with Edgerton a few weeks ago,” Stahl said. “I said ‘you’re a great player and you do a lot. But there’s another gear in you.’ I think he found that extra gear (Monday).”

Kelly finished off his outstanding career with an empty net goal with six seconds left to cap off the three-peat.

“Hats off to Wheeling Park,” Stahl said. “Dorothy stood on her head and I couldn’t be more proud of Joey Haller. I’ve been watching him play at Park for the last four years and he’s done a tremendous job.

“I’ve had some of our seniors since the sixth grade. It’s going to be hard losing them but I am so proud of them and happy for them.

“Our coaches, too. Joseph Baker and Jake Fullerton control the special teams and work on it every day in practice. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”