ASHBURN, Va. -- Confidence and comfort zones can be odd and unpredictable in sports.
Zachary Harrison insists he remained confident on the ice when J.W. Mitchell High School (Florida) fell behind Boulder/Monarch (Colorado) by three goals in the first period. When the teams wound up tied, Harrison admitted to feeling uncomfortable and playing “scared” when overtime started.
Harrison found a way swallow any discomfort he was feeling, ending the Combined Division title game on a power-play goal just 2:10 into overtime, lifting J.W. Mitchell past Boulder/Monarch, 8-7, at the 2016 Toyota-USA Hockey High School National Championships at the Ashburn Ice House.
“We were on a power play and I was sitting out in front like I usually do trying to block the goalie’s vision,” Harrison said.
Tim Lynch passed to Nathan Smith, who got off the shot that Harrison saw just fine. He was able to deflect it into the net to bring an end to five days of tournament action in Ashburn and nearby Reston, Virginia.
The lengthy finale saw both teams rally from three-goal deficits and end up needing overtime to decide the title in the division for teams that draw players from more than one school.
The win gave J.W. Mitchell the first championship by a Florida team at USA Hockey’s High School nationals.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Harrison said. “Most people thought that kids from Florida couldn’t even come to nationals and shouldn’t even be here.”
Boulder/Monarch made Mitchell look out of place early, taking a 3-0 lead in the first period.
Harrison got involved early in the comeback and was one of six players to score a pair of goals in the back-and-forth game.
“We knew we couldn’t give up and had to keep coming at them,” Harrison said. “We knew we had to get shots.”
J.W. Mitchell scored on more than half of its 13 shots while turning a 3-0 deficit into a 7-4 lead during the second period.
Adam Tybor, Jake Young and Blake Bride scored first-period goals for the Colorado team. Tybor and Bride each had a second goal later while Young finished with three assists for four points.
Lucas Sowder and Smith combined with Harrison to lead J.W. Mitchell back.
Sowder, who attended USA Hockey’s Select 17 Player Development Camp last summer, had a hat trick in the second period. He started the scoring, putting J.W. Mitchell ahead for the first time, 4-3, with six minutes left, then responded to the only Boulder/Monarch goal of the period by scoring 27 seconds later for a 6-4 advantage.
Smith led the way with two goals and five assists. He assisted on the first two goals, then scored the tying goal himself. His unassisted goal with 34 seconds left in the second made it 7-4.
Harrison finished with two goals and an assist.
Brendan Van Haute, who led Boulder/Monarch with two goals and three assists, brought his team back in the third period. He scored goals 15 seconds apart to make it a one-goal game.
That allowed Bride to force overtime when he scored seven seconds before the end of a 5-on-3 power play with 1:50 remaining.
Then J.W. Mitchell settled back down and came away with a national championship.
“The boys worked hard preparing,” Mitchell coach Ralph Sowder said. “The hours they put in paid off.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.