By Jaret Andrews
BROOKLYN, OHIO – In the game of the tournament, the top seeded Mentor Cardinals took down the Hudson Explorers 2-1 in a game that was deadlocked after well over an hour of on ice time.
After a delayed start due to the previous Baron III semifinal matchup going into double overtime, a spot in the Baron I championship was on the line and it was apparent from the start that both teams wanted to live to see championship Sunday.
After a stale mate through the three-period regulation and four additional eight-minute overtime periods, Luke Jeffery finally ended the game with an unassisted goal coming off a steal in the attacking zone. Jeffery’s game winning back hander came with 2:53 left in the fifth overtime period.
Jeffery’s goal wasn’t the only case of late game dramatics for Mentor though.
Trailing one to nothing late into the third period, the McBride brothers, Evan and Andrew connected on a goal scored by Andrew and assisted by Evan with 56 seconds left in the third period. A goal that would later send the game to overtime.
The game was scoreless for 38 minutes and 40 seconds until Hudson scored their only goal of the game. Luke Karnofel scored a goal assisted by Cameron Slifko with 6:20 remaining in the game. A goal that gave the Explorers a 1-0 lead.
Mentor came into this game having won the season series versus Hudson 2-1, but you couldn’t tell by the way the Explorers started this game. Hudson dictated the pace of play and spent much of the first period in their attacking zone.
Much like the first period being dominated by Hudson, Mentor did the same in the second period. Dictating the pace and getting the advantage on shots on goal, peppering Hudson goalie Will Hannon for most of the frame.
Despite dictating the pace of the period, Mentor couldn’t score keeping the score at 0-0 going into the final frame.
The overtime periods went back and forth the entire night. Neither team was able to crack the code that were the goal keepers Hannon and Alex Toth.
No ground was given by either side was given until the fourth overtime. With right around two minutes to play in the fourth OT, Slifko was sent to the box for a two-minute minor, then subsequently thrown out of the game when showing his frustration with the calls or lack thereof.
Slifko is one of the leaders of this team and his absence lead to a momentum shift for the Cardinals.
Mentor was able to punch their ticket to the Baron Red Division championship Sunday night where they have a chance to win their first ever Baron I championship, their second ever Baron Cup championship, and their first since 1995.
The Cardinals will meet defending champions Rocky River, who was the winner of the following Baron I semifinal game, at 5:30 on championship Sunday.