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National Capital Hockey Tournament: Gonzaga falls just short of sixth Purple Puck title

By Louis Nelson,

A year ago, Gonzaga goalie Nick Platais was named most valuable player of the National Capital Hockey Tournament after leading the Eagles to their first Purple Puck championship since 2008. Monday, Platais and the Eagles nearly did it again.

The junior goalie gave up three goals in two games Monday at Fort Dupont Ice Arena to push No. 1 Gonzaga past Chicago’s Loyola Academy, 3-1, in the tournament semifinal before falling in the final to Cleveland’s Saint Ignatius, 2-1.

According to the official stats, Platais made 26 saves in the title game and 20 in the semifinals.

Saint Ignatius got its first goal 20 minutes into the 25-minute first half after defenseman Joey Malone scored on a five-on-three power play that Gonzaga nearly killed. The Eagles (11-3) tied the game early in the second half on a goal from forward Bobby Hally, but the Wildcats went back up for good six minutes later on a breakaway goal from Beck Schultz.

“I told him this morning, I said, ‘If you have a really good game you’re going to be going in the afternoon as well.’ He only gave up one goal, so he held up his end of the bargain,” Gonzaga Coach Nate Jackson said. “Maybe the second goal here was a little bit soft, but you can’t expect a kid to stand on his head every game. . . . He played fine. He played great.”

The Eagles played both games Monday without assistant captain Michael Logan, who injured his wrist in a 7-2 win over Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep Sunday.

A win in the final would have given the Eagles their sixth Purple Puck title in the tournament’s 20-year history. This year’s field featured teams from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois and the District. Buffalo’s Canisius High, the top team at the end of pool play, was forced to withdraw from the tournament because of a New York rule prohibiting high school teams from playing more than one game in a day.

Other local teams in the tournament included Georgetown Prep, which finished 1-2 in the tournament, and No. 10 Huntingtown, which went 0-3 as the only public school representative. The tournament’s only local matchup came Sunday, when the Little Hoyas beat Huntingtown, 5-2.

In their semifinal win over Loyola, the Eagles got a pair of goals from senior Jack Slater and another from freshman Mackie Wheeler. The Ramblers scored their only goal via the power play in the second half.

“We’re definitely a better team. I think that’s what we’re going to take away from it, that we’ve realized actually how good we are, that we can play with teams from all over the country,” Slater said. “We’re from D.C., we don’t get too much credit, but we can play with these kids and we can keep up with these kids.”

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