Top-ranked Gonzaga went wire-to-wire this season as The Post’s No. 1 hockey team, but it took an early-February loss against Landon for the Purple Eagles to reach their full potential.
Gonzaga entered its Feb. 1 game against the Bears with just one loss to a local opponent, riding a six-game winning streak that stretched the entire month of January. But the Purple Eagles couldn’t find the back of the net that night in a 2-0 loss. It was the last game Gonzaga would lose all season, a contest Gonzaga Coach Nate Jackson called, “a blessing in disguise.”
As a result of the loss to Landon, Jackson promoted sophomore Dominik Pettey to the first line. The switch paid dividends in the playoffs for the Purple Eagles when Pettey scored what wound up being a season-saving goal in the first period of Gonzaga’s Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League semifinal game against Spalding.
“No question, that was the biggest goal of our season. We were down and out in the first period against Spalding. We didn’t have a shot for the first eight, nine minutes. We were getting dominated. We were down 2-0 and the wheels were kind of falling off a little bit,” Jackson said. “Right from that moment, I was like . . . ‘The kids are not going to die that easily.’ ”
Sparked by Pettey’s goal, Gonzaga went on to win that semifinal against Spalding, 5-2. The sophomore was again a hero in the MAPHL championship game, scoring a goal and dishing out two assists in Gonzaga’s 6-1 win over Calvert Hall. The league title was Gonzaga’s second in team history.
Gonzaga captain Jack Slater set the pace for the No. 1 Eagles this season, scoring a team-high 28 goals and earning recognition as the MAPHL player of the year. Slater’s fist-line teammate and assistant captain Bobby Hally scored 13 goals and finished with a team-best 26 assists. Nick Platais, the starting goalie for Gonzaga, allowed just 1.42 goals per game and was named to the all-MAPHL first-team.
“A lot of people have said that that was pretty impressive. It just doesn’t happen, in any sport, at any level, that often,” Jackson said of his team’s wire-to-wire No. 1 ranking. “It’s tough mentally. It’s tough for the kids to continuously, week after week, be ranked number one and maintain that. It’s a testament to the kids and their resilience.”
MSHL champion Churchill finished the season on a tear, winning its last six games by a total of 49-4, including 28-1 in four playoff victories. . . . Interstate Athletic Conference runner-up Bullis makes its debut in the rankings despite losing the IAC title game to Landon, 4-2. . . . Briar Woods makes a leap from seventh to second in the final rankings after beating Stone Bridge and Langley in back-to-back games to win the NVSHL title.
1. Gonzaga (22-4-1) LW: 1
2. Briar Woods (11-2-1) LW: 7
3. Churchill (18-3) LW: 5
4. Spalding (16-3-2) LW: 3
5. Langley (12-2) LW: 10
6. Stone Bridge (11-1) LW: 2
7. Landon (16-4-2) LW: 4
8. Atholton (11-2-1) LW: 6
9. Woodbridge (10-1-1) LW: 8
10. Bullis (9-4-1) LW: NR