After a season of relaxing wins and demoralized opponents, Gonzaga's history-making championship was expected to be a formality. Mount Saint Joseph made it a dogfight.
The Gaels put together a blue-collar performance in last night's Maryland Scholastic Hockey League private school final at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. But even that wasn't good enough against the Eagles, who won 3-2 on senior Ryan Holley's goal 93 seconds into overtime.
The win gave Gonzaga (15-0) three straight titles, a first in the MSHL's 19-year history.
Earlier, in a wild public school final, South River junior Adam Mitchell's goal with 55 seconds remaining lifted the Seahawks to a thrilling 9-8 win over Linganore.
Gonzaga's dominance this season was so complete that, before last night, the Eagles' closest game was a 7-2 regular season win over DeMatha.
"When you win 9-0, it's like a pick-up game; you're just out there having fun," Holley said. "These are the ones you remember."
The Gaels (12-3) proved they would be competitive when they opened the scoring late in the first period on goals by seniors Matt Buonato and Brady Earle. But before the announcer could say who had the assists on Earle's goal, Eagles senior Patrick Cullen cut that lead in half. Cullen also had the second period's only goal.
The Gaels, who were going for their sixth MSHL title and first since 2003, lost last year's championship game to Gonzaga, 6-4. The Gaels lost to the Eagles again in their first league game this season, 8-2.
"That hurt, but we learned a lot from that game and we fixed it," Earle said. "And we came out and showed that we can hang with these guys."
In the public game, victory boiled down to simple arithmetic: Three stars for second-seeded South River were better than one for Linganore.
Mitchell (four goals, one assists) and Drew Devore (three goals, two assists) do not normally play together, but South River Coach Bryan Brady combined them with Drew's brother, sophomore Chris Devore (one goal, four assists), to form an impromptu line of his three best players.
"I saw [Mitchell] cutting in, gave him the pass and I knew he had it," said Drew Devore, the team's lone senior. "There was no doubt in my mind [he would score]. After that, it was the longest 55 seconds I think I've ever played in my life."
Top-seeded Linganore (15-1) received seven points (four goals, three assists) from its best player, senior Jason Klauka, but the Lancers could not muster a quality shot with their goaltender pulled in the final minute.
He's Going Places:Gonzaga senior Patrick Cullen signed a national letter-of-intent to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where former Washington Capitals Adam Oates and Joe Juneau played in college.
Burning Out the Red Light: South River and Linganore combined for the most goals (17) in public school championship history.