Greenmen finish with a win after tournament exit

Brent Flanik
Correspondent
Forward Conor McMahon dives to block a shot against Roosevelt as goaltender Nolan Sullivan and defenseman Drew Pfiffner look on.

The Aurora High School ice hockey squad’s season came to an end last week with a victory over Orange following a loss to Kent Roosevelt in the OHSAA state playoffs, as the Greenmen finished with a 9-5 overall record.

On February 21, Aurora played its first-round matchup in the OHSAA state playoffs at John Coyne Recreation Center in Brooklyn against Kent Roosevelt, the first meeting of the season between the two Portage County rivals.

The Greenmen opened the scoring with two minutes left in the first period when sophomore Will Genovese scored an unassisted shorthanded tally past Roosevelt goalie Jake Bennett, and then junior Nathan Funk found the net again with just six seconds remaining to give Aurora a 2-0 lead after one period.

Three minutes into the second period, Genovese scored again to give Aurora a three-goal lead, but Roosevelt forward Kade Kiger finally got a puck past Aurora senior goaltender Nolan Sullivan in the final minute to make it a 3-1 game headed into the third period.

Will Pfiffner and Nathan Funk battle with two Roosevelt players behind the net.

Just 46 seconds into the third, Roosevelt forward Ethan Steffl scored to pull within one goal, and then notched another goal five minutes later to tie the game 3-3. Both teams traded chances for the remainder of the period, but Sullivan and Bennett stood tall in net for their respective teams, and regulation ended tied 3-3 forcing a sudden death overtime period, the fourth this season for Aurora.

Both teams played tight defensively at the beginning of the extra frame, but with just under two minutes remaining, Steffl found a loose puck in front of the Greenmen net and jammed home his third goal of the night to secure a 4-3 victory for the Rough Riders and send them into the second round.

Senior Cam Mullin had one assist for the Greenmen, as did Genovese and Funk. Sullivan made 40 saves in goal for Aurora, and Bennett stopped 27 shots in net for Roosevelt.

Roosevelt would go on to play University School on February 24, where they were eliminated by a score of 10-0.

While normally the state playoffs conclude the season, teams this year were given the option to schedule any “make up games” throughout February, and the Greenmen concluded their season on February 27 against Orange at The Pond, a team AHS had also appropriately played in their first game of the season back in November, where they fell short 2-1 in sudden death overtime.

Forward Michael Phillips races down the ice against Roosevelt.

Aurora came out strong out of the gate against the Lions this time, however, and Genovese once again opened the scoring with an unassisted tally two minutes into the game. Orange would score a goal of their own minutes later to even the score before sophomore Zane Martin cashed in for the Greenmen with four minutes remaining to give AHS the lead once again. Aurora freshman Will Pfiffner scored an unassisted goal with 1:30 left, and then Mullin found the net 30 seconds later to grab a 4-1 lead over the Lions after one period.

The second period featured plenty of back-and-forth offense, as Orange answered early with a goal a minute into the period, and then another power-play tally four minutes later to make the score 4-3. With six minutes remaining, Mullin netted his second of the night and three minutes later Martin also notched his second goal of the game to extend the Greenmen lead to 6-3. The desperate Lions once again fought back though and scored with a minute left to make it a two-goal game headed into the final period.

Following the offensive explosion of the second period, both teams played more conservatively in the third as the Aurora defense held firm and Sullivan negated all Orange chances. Genovese finally provided the nail in the coffin in the final minute with an empty-net goal from deep in his own end to secure a 7-4 victory for the Greenmen.

Martin, Funk and sophomore Conor McMahon each added one assist in the contest, and Sullivan made 28 saves in goal for the Greenmen.

“It was a unique end to the season. The Roosevelt game was very disappointing, but it was great being able to finish the year on a high note against Orange,” said AHS coach John Sheridan. “We’ve been through a lot this season, and the players came out motivated to finish the season strong.”

Genovese finished the year as the team leader in points with 32, followed by Mullin who finished with 29. Martin led the team with 14 goals, followed by Genovese and junior Mike Mancine who each had 13.

Forward Cam Mullin skates with the puck past a Roosevelt defender.