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Hill School’s quest for MAHL three-peat ends in overtime

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POTTSTOWN >> Margins tend to be thin in playoff hockey, and the contest between Wyoming Seminary and Hill School was no exception.

Fifty-four minutes of regulation weren’t enough to settle matters. Just as it looked as if five minutes of overtime wouldn’t be enough either, Wyoming Seminary’s Felix Soucy fired home a wrist shot with only five seconds remaining in overtime, giving the Knights a 3-2 victory at Hall-Eccleston Arena and ending Hill’s quest for a Mid-Atlantic Prep League three-peat.

Soucy’s game-winner came on a 4-on-3 power play and ended a furious Hill comeback from down two goals in the third period.

The tough loss wasn’t made any easier by the fact that Hill generated some 53 shots on goal, only to see Wyoming Seminary goalie Armand Charland turn aside all but two.

The loss ended Hill’s chances of a third consecutive MAPL title after taking home trophies in 2016 and 2017.

Hill School’s Travis DeBruyn (14) dumps it into the zone during the first period of Wednesday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“Any time you have success, there’s going to be a target on your backs,” conceded Hill School coach Chris Bala. “Hats off to Wyoming Seminary, they played a great game. I was proud of the way our guys battled in the third.”

The third period saw Hill rally from a 2-0 deficit to send the game to that fateful overtime period. David Hill scored on a rebound with 12:18 left, and Ross Morrison equalized with 2:19 on the clock, finding a loose puck at the top of the crease and beating Charland.

“We were able to get to the net, and have some success,” said Bala. “But this year, we’ve lived and died by the sword in overtime. We’ve had success, even sometimes on nights when we haven’t deserved it. Tonight, [Wyoming Seminary] got what they deserved.”

The Knights spent almost the entire overtime period on the power play following consecutive minors against Hill. Just as the Blues appeared poised to survive the second short-handed situation, Soucy struck to send Wyoming Seminary to next Wednesday’s MAPL championship game.

“Persistence,” summarized Wyoming Seminary coach Mike Dennis. “As I told the boys in the locker room, overtime games are won in the first two minutes and the last two minutes — but you’ve got to work all the way through.

Hill School’s J.J. Szlavik (7) carries the puck into the zone during the first period of Wednesday evening’s game against Wyoming Seminary. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Hill controlled the majority of the play in the first period, but Wyoming Seminary goaltender Charland was equal to the task on all 10 shots. With 18 seconds remaining, the Knights’ Tristan Bidaux got loose on a short-handed breakaway and beat Hill’s Dalton Jerzak with a backhand to send the visitors into the locker room up 1-0.

It didn’t take the Knights long to double their lead in the second period, as a point blast by Vincent Maurice traveled through a crowd and found the stick of Trey Leo, who made no mistake on a wrist shot to the top shelf to make it 2-0 Wyoming Seminary less than three minutes into the stanza.

The rest of the second belonged to Charland, who would turn aside 19 Hill shots in all, including back-to-back opportunities from CJ Duvall and Alex Kiviniemi, chances that stood as Hill’s best up to that point.

That set the stage for the late heroics by Hill to send the game to sudden death, where Soucy would play the hero for the Knights.

For Hill School (16-9-2), the season wraps up this weekend with a road trip to New England to compete with Albany Academy and Worcester Academy. Coach Bala says there’s no time for his players to feel sorry for themselves.

“This loss stings,” he said. “But we have seniors who can look back on the entirety of their careers and be proud of what they accomplished. We still have the opportunity to finish with six strong periods of hockey this weekend.”

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