KENT — It’s an inevitable occurrence just about every year.
The Hudson ice hockey team has a strong regular season, wins a game or two in the postseason and then, well, the inevitable happens.
If you have followed the Explorers for a long time, you know where this is going.
Hudson will eventually run into a powerhouse private school.
Some years, it’s Gates Mills Gilmour Academy. Other times, it’s Hunting Valley University.
On Wednesday, it was the Preppers’ turn. And just like a number of times over the years, the Explorers found themselves packing their bags for good.
Sixth-seeded Hudson’s season came to an end after losing to Greater Lakes Hockey League powerhouse Hunting Valley University 6-0 in a Kent district third-round game. The contest took place at Kent State University Ice Arena.
With the win, the fourth-seeded Preppers (14-17-1) advanced to a district semifinal game against the Lancers. The Explorers called it a winter after finishing 18-13.
"I think we battled pretty hard," Hudson first-year head coach Mike McNeill said. "The reality for public schools is, when is the last time you’ve seen a public school in the final four from Cleveland? The kids played as hard as they could."
The Explorers were no match for their gifted opponents pretty much from the beginning.
University took a 2-0 lead and had a 12-2 advantage in shots on goal in the opening period.
The Preppers harassed Hudson’s defense throughout the evening, thanks to their plethora of gifted skaters, who had a knack for doing whatever they chose with the puck.
Hudson showed some considerable improvement in the second period and actually outshot University 10-9.
Unfortunately, the Preppers snuck another shot past Hudson senior goaltender Nick Tomasulo to take a 3-0 lead. The Explorers did not convert a couple of power-play opportunities in the period.
"They have a lot of skill," McNeill said of the Preppers. "The game was physical in the beginning. We were back on our heels a little bit. We fought that off and played a good second period."
Sadly, the few good vibes it had didn’t last for Hudson.
University completely broke it open in the third period with a pair of goals in an 11-second span a little more than five minutes after the two teams returned from the locker rooms.
The Preppers officially put the finishing touches on their commanding win when they peppered the net one more time six minutes later.
Senior forward Andrew Rozenshtraukh and sophomore forward Mark Berglund each scored twice and junior forward John Pape and senior forward Beau O’Sickey found the nets once.
Pape scored the first goal when he stole the puck moments after a faceoff and then quickly slapped the puck into the net in a matter of seconds less than four minutes into the game.
Senior forwards Will Lvovich and Ryan Rosecrans each had two assists and sophomore defenseman Colin Counahan, senior defenseman Tristan Cavotta, junior defensemen Charlie Paine and Shane Cronin added one assist apiece.
University had a 33-15 advantage in shots on goal. Tomasulo finished with 27 saves. Preppers’ senior goalie Michael Holtz stopped all 15 of Hudson’s shots.
"When I was at Gilmour, we had kids from all over the country," McNeill said. "And we had kids from other countries. They’re there for one or two years. These kids are here for all four years."
The Explorers finished 17-14-2 the previous winter. Appropriately enough, Hudson lost to Gilmour in postseason play.
"I thought we had an excellent season," McNeill said. "I had a blast this year with the guys. I think they learned a lot and I think I learned a lot from them. We couldn’t expect more out of this season."
McNeill said goodbye to Tomasulo and fellow seniors Nicholas DiBiasio (defenseman), Matt Roberts (defenseman), Robby Rischitelli (defenseman), Luke Karnofel (forward), Matt Hannon (forward), Alex Cole (defenseman), Burke Villenauve (forward) and Conner Halford (defenseman).
"I have been out of this game for so long," McNeill said. "In a public-school setting like this, I learned quickly how much the seniors care. They really do.
"The last time I was a coach, I really forgot how much the senior season means to them. It was fun to go through that with them."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.