Aidan Finegan slapped a screamer of a shot in the overtime session of a boys hockey game last weekend.
The puck off the stick of the Loyola Gold junior resembled a dark poker chip, as it hissed wide right of the goal in the annual Quadheader game with New Trier Green on Dec. 3.
Green senior goaltender Hayden Wieczorek watched it sail to his left and must have heard it dent a board behind him at the Centennial Ice Rink in Wilmette.
An alert Eamon O’Brien, another LA Gold junior, fielded the carom with his stick and stuffed it past Wieczorek for a one-foot goal — the sudden-victory tally in a 4-3 decision before a packed, raucous crowd.
“The puck … it was right there for me,” said O’Brien, a Wilmette resident whose first goal of the night had extended LA’s lead to 3-1 at the 4:50 mark of the second period.
LA Gold (25-1-1) had defeated two-time reigning AHAI state champion New Trier Green (22-8-1) in their previous two meetings this season: 4-2 at Winnetka Ice Arena on Oct. 25; 5-0 at American Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood on Nov. 19.
“That’s good, sure, but it’s not the season; we’re nowhere near March,” said Gold coach D.J. LaVarre, whose club fell to Providence Catholic in an AHAI state semifinal last season. “We’re taking this week to week.
“I liked our resilience night,” he added.
NT Green struck first, getting a power-play goal from senior Costa Pavlopoulos with 7:22 left in the first period; junior Mark Ashmore and senior Sam Shrier provided the assists. Gold knotted it with a power-play goal by junior alternate captain Cooper Prawdzik (on a assists from juniors Timmy Hackett and Nick Liebers) in the first minute of the second period.
About three minutes before O’Brien’s first goal, LA senior Zack Bartuce broke the 1-1 tie, with helpers coming off the sticks of senior captain Danny Stevens and senior John Purcell.
Gold entered the third period with a seemingly comfortable 3-1 advantage and an excessive amount of momentum.
But Green gave its home fans two excuses to pop out of their seats and strain their vocal cords. Junior Bobby Soudan’s goal narrowed the gap to 3-2, and — nearly eight minutes later (with 4:01 left in regulation) — senior Mason Smith beat Gold goaltender Hugh Brady to even it at 3-3.
“All of a sudden, the other team has all of the momentum,” LaVarre said. “Hey, we found a way to win, and we did it with our resilience.”
And with his club’s special teams. All three of Gold’s goals in regulation came via the power play.
Green’s three goals?
Power play, power play, power play.
“Special teams,” LaVarre said, “were huge tonight.”
Stevens appreciated an order his coaches had delivered to the team with a few minutes left in the third period.
“They told us to sit back and relax; we were skating faster than our minds were thinking,” said Stevens, in his third season with LA’s top hockey team. “We needed to slow it down, and that helped us.”
What NT Green needs to do the next time it faces LA Gold?
“Win,” NT senior defenseman Gavin Randle said.
Notable: LA Gold junior Timmy Hackett finished with two assists in his team’s 4-3 defeat of New Trier Green in the Quadheader game on Dec. 3. … New Trier Green’s other assists in the game with LA Gold came from sophomore Brian Dolby, senior Connor Baldwin and juniors Jakob Travis and Bobby Soudan. … NT Green’s players changed their uniforms after the Quadheader warm-up session last weekend. They returned to the ice in bright green-and-white togs, looking a lot like Boston Celtics hoopsters in skates. … LA junior Nick Liebers recently received Blackhawks ServICE Volunteer of the Month honors, along with the two tickets to a Chicago Blackhawks game that accompanied the recognition. … NT Green’s top players in points, through Dec. 3: Soudan (26 goals, 28 assists); John Robinson (23, 27); Travis (17, 11); Tyler Baird (7, 14), Sam Shrier (9, 10); Baldwin (3, 16); and Costa Pavlopoulos (7, 12). … NT Green goaltender Hayden Wieczorek has a record of 11-4; and his teammate, Ethan Paul, is 11-4-1 in goal. … LA senior goaltender Hugh Brady, backup to senior Thomas Moran, hasn’t lost a game since filling in for Moran for the past two weeks. “Hugh has been great for us,” LA Gold captain Danny Stevens said, adding Brady didn’t survive tryout cuts a year ago. … NT Green’s AHAI state championship this past March was its 14th in program history and sixth in nine years. … Coach Bob Melton’s Green team routed Barrington 14-1 at North Shore Ice Arena on Oct. 15. Travis scored four of his five goals in Green’s seven-goal first period; all but one of his tallies were even-strength goals. He and Dolby had the assists on a Mark Ashmore goal in the second period. Shrier paced the team in assists with four, one more than Ashmore’s total. … NT Green junior Gavin Randle was asked to select his team’s unsung hero after the Quadheader game on Dec. 3. “[Senior] Hunter Roggekamp,” Randle said. “He doesn’t score a lot of goals, but he always plays incredibly hard in every game.”