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Exhausted Max Kilkuts gives Santa Margarita the high school title

By Alain Poupart - Special to, 03/25/13, 4:30PM MDT


CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Max Kilkuts said he wasn’t really nervous as the USA Hockey High School Boys’ Varsity National Championship game went to overtime. But the senior center from Santa Margarita (Calif.) High School was tired.

He wasn’t too tired, though, to give his team the national title with a goal 2:01 into the extra period.

“The nerves were pretty much in check,” Kilkuts said outside the locker room at the Iceplex, “but [I’m] glad I got the goal because I don’t know how much longer I could have gone.”

Kilkuts’ goal gave Santa Margarita, a program in only its fourth year of existence, a 4-3 victory against 2012 champion Regis Jesuit of Colorado. Santa Margarita won the title after going 3-0 in pool play, and then beating both Centennial (Tenn.) 5-2 in the quarterfinals and Waterloo (Iowa) 8-4 in the semis on Saturday.

Kilkuts’ game-winner Sunday was his second goal of the game. He earlier had given Santa Margarita a 3-1 lead late in the first period with a backhand from close range.

In overtime, Kilkuts dug a free puck at the side of the Regis Jesuit net, brought it back in front and pushed it home to send his teammates jumping off the bench in celebration.

“To get two goals in the last game and the overtime winner is not a bad way to end senior year,” Kilkuts said. “It’s been a great four years here. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Just can’t get over how surreal this is at this point.”

Tatu Hiltunen had a goal and an assist for Santa Margarita, and defenseman Bradley Budman also scored.

Brady Hall, Conner Wigton and Nolan Carothers scored for Regis Jesuit, which beat Waterloo 4-3 in the 2012 final.

“Every one of them is going to be disappointed and upset that we didn’t win, but they should be remarkably proud of where they got to and how far we were able to come,” said Regis Jesuit coach Dan Woodley, who had to watch the game from the stands because of a Colorado High School Activities Association rule preventing contact between players and coaches on Sundays. “It’s not what we’re looking for because we’re so accustomed to success, but when you define success, you need to look at second place as a pretty good credit to them.”

After its dominant performances on Saturday, Santa Margarita appeared on its way to another comfortable victory against Regis Jesuit.

But after having a 12-3 shot advantage in the first period and getting numerous chances to increase their 3-1 lead, the Eagles watched Regis Jesuit come back — thanks in large part to the efforts of goalie Sam Harden.

“It’s tough when you’ve got all the momentum and their goalie plays great,” Kilkuts said. “They got a couple of bounces go their way and all of a sudden it’s a tie game going into overtime.”

Before overtime, though, Regis Jesuit had a great chance when it went on the power play with 2:58 left in regulation. The Raiders didn’t muster much offense with the man advantage before Santa Margarita goalie Brandon Schellin had to make a nice leg save on a wrist shot from the slot by Thomas Jahde.

Earlier in the third period, it was Santa Margarita that had all the good scoring chances, including a couple of breakaways and a shot by defenseman Jake Rosenbaum that bounced off the crossbar.

“We had a couple of two-on-ones, a couple of opportunities and their goaltender was real good,” said Santa Margarita coach Craig Johnson. “I thought he made great saves. In the third period, we had two breakaways that we couldn’t convert. I was getting nervous. That’s a real good team. Regis Jesuit is a heck of a hockey team. They’re well coached, they’re disciplined, they’ve got great goaltending, great individual skill.

“It was a great hockey game. It was good for the national championship game.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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