Hudson Ice hockey stuns Mentor in overtime

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Hudson goaltender Ben Cole makes a save during a game agaisnt Strongsville earlier this season.

GATES MILLS — Due to the lack of league games this winter, Hudson ice hockey had not played an overtime contest all season.

Explorers coach Mike McNeill agreed to play overtime against Mentor Saturday, as the two teams were tied 1-1 after regulation at Gilmour Academy.

It turned out to be a wise decision.

A rebound goal from left wing Sam Zulant with 4:24 left in overtime gave the Explorers a 2-1 win over the Cardinals. It was Hudson's first win in three tries against Mentor this winter.

McNeill noted Hudson (7-6-2) could see the Cardinals again Saturday in the Baron Cup, if the Explorers were able to get past Strongsville in the first round.

"We played very well tonight," McNeill said. "It took the boys a while to get going, but they did well. It's our first win in three tries with Mentor."

Mentor coach Paul Mokito said the contest was as close as the score.

"It was a tough game," Mokito said. "I thought we had a lot more quality chances, but their goalie did a great job.

"They've got some skilled player. We have to start to play within our system. Tonight we didn't do that."

McNeill noted his team has had two faces all season. Both came out in the first seven minutes of the game.

Hudson goalie Ben Cole made a brilliant glove save to deny the Cardinals early in the first period.

On the ensuing face off, however, Mentor won the draw and defender Brand Backston unleashed a slap shot through traffic that found its way into the net.

Cardinal assistant captain Jack O'Connell and forward Tyler Velloniskis were credited with assist, as the goal was scored at the 12:46 mark of the first period.

That would be the only mistake Cole would make in the game. He finished with 22 saves, as Mentor finished with a slight 23-20 edge in shots on goal.

"Ben played an excellent game tonight," McNeill said.

Mentor goalie Garrett Davis finished with 18 saves.

Hudson looked to be trouble when Ian Ludwig was given a minor penalty for interference with 8:44 left in the first.

Zulant was able to turn that penalty into a positive.

Defending at it his own blue line, Zulant poked the puck away from Cardinal and found himself on a breakaway from the neutral zone.

Zulant skated in and fired a shot past Davis' glove, tying the game at 1-1 with 7:16 left in the first period.

"I had to poke it away," Zulant said. "Once I got behind him, I knew that I was going to score."

With the score tied 1-1 at the first intermission, Hudson played its best hockey in the second period, but had nothing to show for it.

The Explorers' pounded the net during their lone power play, when Mentor's Mason Kiammer was penalized for tripping with 4:28. However, Davis kept the Explorers at bay.

Hudson's penalty-kill unit did its job, as the Cardinals when 0-3 of power plays.

During the third period, Mentor had Hudson trapped in its own end for long stretches, but could not find a way past Cole. Hudson nearly got a second short-handed goal from Zulant in the third.

At the end of regulation, McNeill and Mokito agreed to the overtime period.

After Mentor had a couple of chances early, the final sequence began with Hudson winger Alec Dickers was able to split two defenders and get a shot off.

"Dickens did a great job getting that shot off," Zulant said. "It went off the blocker and rebounded to me. I was able to beat [Davis] just under the glove."

Hudson mobbed Zulant at center ice, as he scored his first two-goal game of the season.