FORT WAYNE – No team had ever pulled off the trifecta – the city’s regular-season championship, the postseason championship and a state championship – until Leo finalized the feat on Saturday at the Lutheran Health SportsCenter.
As much as it took hard hitting, highlight-reel goaltending and two deft shots, the 2-1 double-overtime victory over Carmel Gold required a great deal of composure in the Class 4A game.
Not only was a second-period Leo goal waved off because referee Adam Fish deemed it was played with a high stick, but after a slew of Lions chances failed to enter the net, Carmel got the game-tying goal from forward Danny Anderson at the end of an odd-man rush with only 1:04 remaining in regulation.
At first, it wasn’t easy to shake off that goal, said Leo goaltender Chandler Reinking, who had 31 saves. But you have to compose yourself in a situation like that.
In the second overtime – the teams skated 3-on-3 – senior Tyler Grunden got a breakaway and shot the puck off the goalpost and past junior netminder Connor Minnick, who had 16 saves
It’s a great moment, Grunden said. It was our time.
It was Leo’s first state title since 2009 and they barely got into the game, after losing 2-1 in an overtime shootout to Carmel, then losing to Hamilton Southeastern and defeating Riley. It took a tiebreaker based on goals against to get the Lions (28-9-8) back to their home ice.
Almost all of the first period was spent in the Leo end, where Reinking foiled shots from point-blank range by juniors George Pippen, Logan Gentile and Michael Clark, totaling 10 saves in the period.
The game turned in the second period and, at 6:10, senior Daniel Watson’s goal was negated by Fish. The Lions atoned at 12:15, when a Grunden shot skipped through a crowd of players and onto the stick of sophomore Blake Kem, who scored into an open net.
Leo had plenty of chances to seal the victory in the third period – junior Preston Ray and senior Nick Janiszewski were both stopped on odd-man rushes – and Carmel’s goalie misplayed the puck and almost allowed a goal seconds before the Icehounds (35-13-2) tied it.
This is the biggest community of support I’ve ever had in my life and it’s fabulous to have the Leo name on the 4A championship trophy, said coach Dan Schiebel, who has won four state titles in four classes with Leo, Homestead and New Haven.
But there were some nervous moments after coughing up the lead.
When you’re down to just over a minute and you’ve played your heart out, like we had, to turn that over and give up the goal (is tough), Schiebel said. But the kids dug down and they did it. They did it, and it’s all about the kids.