The Indianapolis Racers were down 3-0 with less than six minutes in regulation. More remarkably, Indianapolis let in two goals in the third period, which normally would have meant grabbing the momentum back would be impossible.
Then, in a stirring comeback the players will remember for a lifetime, the Racers scored three times in a 4:35 span to force overtime. The Racers completed the comeback in overtime to defeat the Affton Americans 4-3 for the USA Hockey 14-Under Tier II 2A Division National Championship.
“What an exciting way to do it,” a breathless Indianapolis coach AJ McIntosh said. “It didn’t look good there for a while. We have faith in our guys. We’re always asking, ‘Do you believe? Do you believe? Is this meant to be for us?’ The kids always answer the call. We’re really happy it all played out the way it did.”
The game turned on the silliest of circumstances. After Indianapolis finally scored to cut the lead to 3-1, on a bit of a lucky goal itself, Affton was called for a bench minor for arguing too vehemently over an icing call. The Racers scored on the ensuing power play, the momentum swing was complete, and Indianapolis never looked back.
“We were down three with less than six minutes to go, and we caught a break,” McIntosh said. “Literally, a broken-stick slap shot from the blue line found it’s way in. I think it fooled the goalie a little bit because it was coming a little slower. They took a bench penalty, which got us a little bit more momentum. And next thing you know we’re trying to tie the game.”
That broken-stick goal was scored by Spencer Cage at 10:26 of the final period. At 12:05, the bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct was called. Thirty-five seconds later, the score was 3-2. Matt Moody banged home a loose puck down low.
Affton called a time out at this point, but the damage was done.
Jack Surowiec tied the game with 59 seconds left in the third period. He stole the puck at the blue line, went in on a breakaway, cut left, and beat the goalie.
The impossible comeback was partially complete as the teams went to the locker room to await overtime with all the confidence on the Indianapolis side.
“We wanted to apply pressure early and try to end it quickly,” McIntosh said. “We only have 13 skaters, so we played with nine forwards and four D. Ultimately, we were confident going in [to overtime] we could win that game.”
Win it they did, though it took until the 8:20 mark before it finally happened. Ryan MacKellar fired a difficult shot from the right side, and the goaltender made a kick save. However, he was unable to control the rebound, which bounded behind him. Andy Hunt was crashing the net the whole way, and knocked it out of the air into the open net.
“I just tapped it in,” Hunt said. “It was really just a tap-in goal. It wasn’t really me; it was all my teammates.”
All his teammates still mobbed him after the red light flashed on.
“We just believed in ourselves, and we stayed strong,” Hunt said.
Affton, from St. Louis, had control of the game up to the middle of the third period. Brycon Johnson scored the first two goals, both assisted by Zach Jordan. The first came at 6:20 of the first period when Johnson simply kept the puck moving toward the net. The goalie got crossed up, and the puck went in seemingly in slow motion. The second came at 2:53 of the third period when a pass to the middle bounced out to the slot, where Johnson slapped it home.
Andrew Croghan made it 3-0 at 8:04. He picked up the puck just inside the blue line and fired a slap shot through a crowd and into the net.
Then, it all fell apart for Affton, and Indianapolis was dancing around the rink with the trophy.
“Our captains just stepped up great,” McIntosh said. “Spencer Cage with the first goal, Matt Moody with the second goal, Jack Surowiec with the tying goal. All three of them have letters on their sweaters. We are really proud of those guys. The leadership they showed down the stretch here. Our team has won many a game in the third period. It’s great to get to do it here at the national championships.”
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 14 & Under