Fri, Feb 24 2012 09:00 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Hilltop High School roller hockey team once again carried the torch for the sport among South County teams, earning the highest seed among any of the CIF-Metro Conference’s collection of nine Sweetwater district-based teams for this year’s Don Cerone Memorial/Kiwanis Cup championship playoffs.
Hilltop captured this year’s Mesa League championship banner with a 7-2 league record. But winning in the playoffs is another matter, as the ninth-seeded Lancers (10-11) discovered via a very painful 9-8 loss to the Del Norte Nighthawks in Monday’s opening round at National City’s Skate San Diego.
“The season was one of ups and downs,” HHS coach Darin Ries said. “When we started to pick things up, we seemed to take a step backward.”
Ries defined Monday’s playoff thriller to a tee.
The eighth-seeded Nighthawks, playing in their first year of CIF-sanctioned roller hockey, opened up a 5-1 lead only to see the ninth-seeded Lancers storm back with three unanswered goals in a 2:28 span in the waning stages of the second period to trim the Del Norte lead to 5-4.
The Nighthawks (6-15) scored just 1:49 into the third period to increase their lead to two goals. But Hilltop came back with a goal to once again cut the deficit to one goal.
Del Norte responded with two goals to go up 8-5 with 5:12 to play in the game. But the Lancers weren’t finished. They proceeded to pepper Nighthawks netminder Kenny Winter with a flurry of shots in the closing stages of the contest, potting three.
Del Norte made the score 9-6 on Matt Schrag’s seventh goal of the game with 2:20 remaining. That’s when things got really exciting — and hectic. Hilltop’s Jeremiah Schultz made it 9-7 with exactly two minutes to play with his hat trick goal, then teammate George Godinez, the Mesa League’s top scorer, whipped in his fifth goal of the game with 1:34 to go.
The Lancers pulled their goaltender with a minute left in the game and, despite an abundance of chances, couldn’t find the right combination to get the equalizer to send the game into overtime.
Three saves by Winter on Hilltop breakaways proved crucial in the outcome.
“One of the things I’m real proud of is that Hilltop stood and fought to the end,” Ries said.
Godinez finished the match with seven points while Schultz collected six points.
Eric Duong and Thomas Akerson also were credited with goals for the Nighthawks, the cellar dweller in the intensely competitive North County League.
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