Before the end of the Purple Puck Tournament, director John Cotton will start planning next year’s edition by asking nonlocal teams whether they’ll be coming back.
“What I’ve found is if most people had a great tournament . . . a lot of teams choose to return,” Cotton said.
Cotton, an accountant and linebackers coach for the H.D. Woodson football team, started organizing the tournament 11 years ago after watching his son grow up playing hockey. Since then, Cotton has grown the event from a six-team field, including two Gonzaga squads, into a two-bracket, 14-team showcase for prep schools across the nation.
Bringing in nonlocal schools requires meeting each state’s requirements, which can get tricky. “Different states have different rules,” he said. “Some states [dictate], ‘You can’t play two games in one day.’ ”
Once Cotton has confirmed the teams, he coordinates with Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Southeast, Gonzaga’s home ice, to lock in the schedule.
“We book the referees, we book the ice time, we book Fort Dupont,” Cotton said. “Then we work out a hotel contract, so we have a [place to stay] for the visiting teams.”
Cotton also works in time for the visiting teams to enjoy the sights of the nation’s capital.
“I think Washington, D.C., is a great destination place for a hockey tournament because we do have the monuments that you can visit in between games,” Cotton said. “When we say you’re playing in Washington, D.C., you’re playing in Washington, D.C., proper.”
During the tournament, Cotton coordinates the point system for teams, cleaning out the locker rooms and providing pucks to the first star of each game.
But for Cotton, it’s worth it to see the final day come together, a day that features a donation to a local charity from the proceeds of the tournament. It also includes an exhibition, ranging from a girls’ clinic and game to a matchup featuring the Fort Dupont Cannons. This year’s involved Gonzaga’s junior varsity team and the Reston Raiders club squad.
“It kind of, for me, states what the mission was about in doing the tournament — where not only was it some great high school hockey with hockey at the highest level, but we also help promote hockey in the area,” Cotton said.
Despite applying continued pressure and pulling its goalie with five minutes left in the second half, Gonzaga (5-2-1) dropped its semifinal against St. Ignatius, 4-2.
After the Illinois squad scored on a breakaway by Max Pasiennik, Farrell Dinn responded with a short-side snipe on Charles Doherty to tie the score at 1.
With five minutes left in the first half, Jack Nelson of St. Ignatius roofed a shot just above the goal line past Harlan Jackson. The Eagles tied it early in the second half when a scramble in front led to a goal from Luca Docking.
“We’ve done it a few times in our games this year where we’ve been down and have had to score quickly to come back,” Eagles Coach Sam Gerdano said.
But Gonzaga faltered as the second half wore on, and Patrick Doyle and Sean Doyle pocketed the final two goals.
Seeded fourth, the O’Connell Knights (7-5-3) nearly reached the final, but they lost in the semifinals, 4-3 in a shootout, to The Hun School out of New Jersey.
Six minutes into the first half, O’Connell’s Jake Smith jammed the puck into the net. After a slew of penalties for both sides, John Ostrowski converted off a turnover at Hun’s blue line.
Hun responded with a goal by Brian Nelson. The Knights closed the first half up 3-1 when Alex Vouras picked off a pass at the blue line and Smith scored his second goal on a quick wrist shot.
Hun rallied to send the game to a shootout that went an event-record 11 rounds, with Chris Brake scoring the winning goal.