WINSLOW — All the momentum was with Winslow. The Black Raiders were down by two goals just 4 1/2 minutes into the game, and they came back. They were down a goal with two minutes left in the third period, and they tied it when Jacob Grenier scored with 1:42 to go.
As Winslow and John Bapst headed to overtime, the Raiders looked to have the edge. But freshman Tyler Wheeler, who had scored with 3:13 left in regulation only to have Grenier steal his hero’s role, seized it back as he put in a backhand 2:32 into overtime to give John Bapst a thrilling 4-3 victory in an Eastern B boys hockey quarterfinal at Sukee Arena.
Ironically, Wheeler struggled through the first two periods, as the adrenaline for his first playoff game affected his play.
“I told him that he had to calm down,” John Bapst coach Gene Fadrigon said. “I pulled him aside on the bench and said, âIt’s just another game. You’re putting too much pressure.’ I could see everything was a little off stride, but he came through.”
“I was shaking a little bit on the bench,” Wheeler said. “That was a pretty physical team. Winslow played a good game.”
No. 5 John Bapst (10-9-0) moves on to face No. 1 Messalonskee on Saturday. Winslow, the fourth seed, finishes as 9-10-0.
There was an incident after the game in which a John Bapst player ended up on the ice and two Winslow players were held back. Fadrigon, Winslow coach Andy Dube, and Wheeler all said they did not see what happened.
“That’s too bad,” Fadrigon said. “I would have liked to have shaken their hands, because it was a battle. It was a great hockey game.”
“I was going to get my team together to shake hands,” Dube said. “I don’t know what happened.”
Wheeler’s game-winner was set up by a rush by Bapst sophomore Nate Reese. After Reese took a long shot, there was a scramble in front, and Winslow goalie Andrew Beals dove forward to try to smother the puck. The puck squirted loose, and Wheeler came from behind the net on the right side and back-handed it in to end the game.
“It was unbelievable,” Wheeler said. “I saw Nate about to shoot it. It hit one of our own players, it looked like. I just had the open net right there, so I just put it in.”
The Crusaders were close to putting the game away in the first period, when they out-shot Winslow 12-5. Hunter Pate sent home a backhand 46 seconds into the game, then made it 2-0 with 10:30 still to go in the first period.
Bapst had two more chances for wide-open shots in the slot, but fumbled the puck away both times. In the second period, after Jacob Trask’s moves set up a goal by Winslow’s Alex Berard, the Raiders killed off a 5-on-3 Bapst advantage for 1 minute and 37 seconds to stay within 2-1.
Grenier tied it up 1:46 into the third period, and Beals had a nice save on Bapst’s Matt Spear. But with 3:13 left, Bapst’s Jonathon Cheff set up behind the net and whipped a pass to Wheeler in the slot, and Wheeler one-timed it home. That lead lasted until Grenier scored to force overtime.
“I was hoping we were going to run the clock out,” Fadrigon said. “But Winslow never gives up.”
“Tying it up late in the game like that shows a lot of character,” Dube said. “Taking it to overtime, I thought we had momentum, and I thought we were going to take it. But they got a couple of bounces, and ended up with the score.”
Winslow graduates only three seniors. The Black Raiders had won a total of five games over the previous two seasons before winning nine this winter.
“We made it here,” Dube said. “We had a home playoff game, which exceeded our goal. I thought we had a chance to win this game, so that was a little letdown. But all in all, good season.”