The goalies not only saved the day but stole the show during Saturday’s championship game of the Jilek Cup at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. And this thrilling show needed an encore before a champion could be crowned.
Just 2:02 into overtime, Ethan Kotre scored with an assist from Jack Martin to give Pioneer a 2-1 win over Skyline in the finals before a loud and enthusiastic crowd. Pioneer defeated Father Gabriel Richard-Greenhills and Skyline topped Huron in Friday night’s semifinal round to set up the finals.
Pioneer improved to 8-2 on the season; Skyline falls to 6-2.
“Skyline is as good as anyone I’ve seen this year in high school hockey and they bring the best out of us which is nice,” said Pioneer Coach Frank Garcia. “We don’t have a ton of seniors but what we do have is a ton of guys who work as hard as anyone and never give up. We’ve come back now twice against one of the better teams in the state and that says something about the guys on our team this year.”
Saturday was the second exciting meeting of the season between these two city rivals. Last month, the Eagles led 4-2 before Pioneer scored five times in the third period to win the first crosstown rivalry match of the season.
The two goalies were simply brilliant in the championship game and both deserved to skate off with a win in tow. But a championship game must have a champion and the Pioneers were able to pull it off in exciting fashion.
Pioneer senior goalie Michael Leighton stopped 34 of Skyline’s 35 shots in the game. He turned away nine in the first period, 13 in the second and 11 in the third. He also had a save in overtime.
“Michael Leighton is as good as any goalie in the league,” Garcia said. “He should be an All-State goalie this year. Anyone who has watched him play knows what kind of player he is.”
The Pioneer defense also deserves plenty of credit for limiting the potent Skyline offense to just one goal on the night.
“We have our seniors on defense this year including Jack Martin and Covey Hurd. They are both captains and took a young group and have really been strong leaders. In between the second and third periods they let everyone know that this game was not over and to keep working.”
Skyline goalie Brendan Cobb was equally as strong at the other end of the ice. The Eagle netminder had 20 saves (eight in the first, seven in the second, four in the third and one in the overtime).
While both sides had plenty of quality scoring chances and skillful plays, Skyline had long stretches of domination. The Eagles started off strong and netted the game’s first goal at 14:51 of the first period when Jamie Newton scored with an assist from Sam Begosso.
The Eagles had some chances to double the lead in the first but were denied by Leighton. The Pioneers also had some chances to even things up but couldn’t get anything past the talented Cobb and the Skyline defense.
The first period also featured six penalties, three aside, in what one would expect when two rivals clash – a very physical game with plenty of hard hits and shoulder-pad cracking checks. There were four penalties in the second period, two each and three in the third period.
The second period was fairly even with both sides skating into quality chances but both defenses pitching shutouts to keep the game at 1-0.
Skyline dominated the early going in the third period. But the Pioneers withstood the storm and waited for their chance. They finally got one with just 3 minutes and change left in the game when Andrew Yang scored at 13:56 on an unassisted goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Father Gabriel Richard-Greenhills, the Jilek Cup’s defending champions, defeated Huron 9-1 in the consolation game on Saturday.