Mustangs Win Hockey State Championship
Apr 08, 2016 09:36AM
● By Greg James
By Greg James | [email protected]
South Valley - The Herriman High School hockey team brought home its first high school state championship Feb. 27. The team used a fierce comeback and held off an end-of-game rally from the Brighton Bengals to prevail 6–5.
“It feels so good to be a champion. I never thought that four years ago I would be standing here to say that,” senior Benton Smith said.
The Mustangs and Bengals played scoreless hockey for the first seven minutes of the championship game. Herriman controlled the puck the majority of the first period, but a mishandled pass to a Herriman defender led to the Bengals’ first goal with 8:11 remaining. A two-minute roughing penalty by Herriman’s Bridger Neal put the Bengals in position to score its second goal — a power play goal with 7:48 remaining in the period.
The Mustangs did not give up. Smith grabbed a rebound and outskated all five of the Bengals players to score the team’s first goal. The Mustangs trailed after one period 2–1.
Smith added two more goals and Eric Feifer nailed an outside shot from the blue line to start the second period. The Mustangs grabbed the lead 4–2, a lead they would never relinquish. The teams traded goals to end the second period and the Mustangs led 5–3 after two periods.
The between–period break was extended so the ice could be resurfaced and both teams retreated to the locker rooms for their final coaches’ instructions.
“I told the kids to execute our game plan. We knew they would throw the kitchen sink at us, but we have had a plan from the beginning. Honestly we went back to basics. We stayed with it and did not let it phase us,” Mustangs head coach Rich Teece said.
The Bengals seemed determined to keep the puck off Smith’s stick in the third period. He already had scored four goals at that point. A Bengals defender trailed him everywhere he went.
“I was thinking to myself that if we were going to lose this game they would need to take me off on a stretcher. I was willing to battle to get this game,” Smith said.
Josh Cox scored the Mustangs’ sixth and final goal with 3:07 remaining. The Bengals then attacked relentlessly. Their timeout with 1:09 remaining set them up to attack one last time. Mustangs goaltender Carlin Merrill made a glove save and redirected the final shot across the top of the net as the final buzzer sounded.
“I was scared, but it is exciting to be a state champion. That third period was sketchy all in front of me, but we held on as a team,” Merrill said.
Merrill had 21 saves for the Mustangs.
“It is incredible to be a state champion. Our whole season led up to this. We needed to skate our butts off and play our game and we did,” senior Dallas Nelson said.
The Mustangs finished 8-2-1 in the regular season. Smith was second in the division with 42 goals, Cox had 35. Merrill saved 224 shots on the season.
“The season went really well. We started out with a goal and set the plan and we executed it. We had some down time through the year, but every time we got back up and learned from it as a team,” Teece said.