By Joe Harris | Special for STLhighschoolsports.com
Coaches and players struggled to describe the scenario that unfolded Thursday night at the Kennedy Recreational Center.
Unpublished, unreal and crazy were some terms tossed around.
Unofficially, Priory and John Burroughs ended their game on Saturday in the first round of the Mid-States Club Hockey Association’s Wickenheiser Cup playoffs. They officially ended it by replaying the last 6 minutes and 16 seconds on Thursday, with playoff hopes Burroughs and Fort Zumwalt South inactive hanging in the balance.
The ending of both games proved to be the same, with Priory winning by identical scores of 3–1, ending the Bombers’ season and allowing Zumwalt South to advance.
“Everyone knew what we had to do and we came out ready to play,” said Priory captain Nicholas Marcrander. “It was awesome.”
The 6:16 final replay happened because Burroughs was granted a call-up for that game of their 3-1 loss to the Ravens on Saturday due to a referee’s error.
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Leading 2-0 in the third period, Priory’s Gary Gaertner picked up a minor double that gave Burroughs a 5-3 power play. A minute later, Priory’s Patrick O’Keefe was awarded another minor penalty.
Burroughs’ Cooper Hyken scored during the first half of the double-minor, meaning the second half of the penalty should have been served. But the official ordered the striker to release O’Keefe instead of resetting Gaertner’s penalty.
As a result, Burroughs saw his two-man advantage cut short.
“A unique situation here,” Burroughs coach Clayton Bury said. “I don’t know how many times a game has been protested in the Mid-States or how many times it has been approved. So it’s kind of a unique experience.
Bury said the referee admitted the mistake after Saturday’s game.
“To his credit, he apologized and told us there was an appeal route we could appeal to the Mid-States,” Bury said.
The Bombers contacted Mid-States on Sunday and prepared a call. It was officially dropped following Burroughs’ win over Zumwalt South on Monday, making the result between Priory and Burroughs crucial as to who qualifies for the next round.
Teams learned on Tuesday that the appeal was approved and the game would start when Burroughs scored his power-play goal, with 6:16 left on the clock and the Bombers with a two-man advantage for 1:38. seconds.
“There was a protest,” said Mid-States Chief Statistician Ryan Harrison. “It was ruled that there was an error on the part of the referee in letting the wrong guy out of the box. The board that went through the call acknowledged the referee’s error and said there would be a replay of the last six minutes of the game.
The Ravens already had the first seed in the next round.
But they still played a full roster for Thursday’s postponed replay.
“We discussed every scenario of what we could do and even inquired about different scenarios, but in the end we just felt like we wanted to have good karma on our side, and we didn’t want to get a reputation for a team that wasn’t going to show up and do it the right way,” Priory coach Jason Getz said.
John Burroughs had several chances to equalize in the 5v3, but Priory keeper William Azrak made several tough saves and got help from his position on another Bombers practice.
“You try to help guide the kids with their mentality,” Bury said. “Of course they’re going to be nervous and they’re going to be excited and we want a bit of that, but also on a 5v3 we want calm and composure and it’s hard to find that middle ground, especially in as a teenager.
Marcrander ended the suspense with a goal 17 seconds after the Priory’s penalties expired.
“That’s not exactly what you want to do,” Marcrander said. “We knew we had to go out and work and make sure they didn’t get the positive results they wanted.”
Getz said he has never been in this situation as a coach or a player.
“Our whole game plan was that they basically had 90 seconds, all the pressure was on them,” Getz said. “After that, if they haven’t scored, the momentum goes our way.”
The biggest winner was the team that didn’t even take the ice.
With Burroughs’ loss, Zumwalt South qualified to face Fort Zumwalt West in a home-and-away quarter-final which begins on Friday. A Bombers loss or tie would have dispatched them and sent the Bulldogs home.
“We found out about the protest on Tuesday,” Zumwalt South assistant coach Troy Watson said. “We relied on the league to do the right thing. They felt the mistake wasn’t fair to John Burroughs…we’re just glad it worked out in our favour.
None of the players or coaches have ever been in this type of situation or had even heard of such a scenario before.
“I was very shocked and to Mid-States’ credit, they realized it was a big mistake,” Bury said. “It was the biggest moment of our season at that time. I have to give them credit. They said, hey, we screwed up and we’re going to rectify that and give you an opportunity. That’s the thing. most important thing about it is that our kids have a sense of closure about it.Even if it didn’t go our way, we have to fight for our lives.