NORTH OLMSTED — Two years ago Amherst didn’t even have a hockey team.
This year it has a chance to win the Southwestern Conference championship.
The Comets frustrated North Olmsted from start to finish Monday in a 3-1 win in the SWC Tournament semifinals at the North Olmsted Recreation Center.
The second-seeded Comets (20-2) will face Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League White Division foe Olmsted Falls in the title game after the Bulldogs knocked off Midview 6-5 in overtime in Monday’s other semifinal. The championship date and time have not been set yet because of the weather issues Friday that pushed the tournament back.
“We don’t try to do anything fancy, we just try to stay pretty consistent and work hard,” Comets coach Steve Morris said. “Our goal is to work on things we do in practice and try to improve from practice into the game.”
Amherst, which had to drop the sport for four season due to low participation numbers, has used a trap defense to give opponents fits all season and Monday was no different. The Comets limited the Eagles to just 18 shots on goal while taking 41.
Despite those dominating numbers, the Comets’ chances were limited thanks to North Olmsted goalie Ryan Godin, who had 38 saves, including several of the spectacular variety.
Jacob Fekete got the Comets on the board first with a goal at 8:46 in the first period off assists from Jacob Kramer and Michael Giannuzzi.
That lead lasted only 52 seconds though as the Eagles’ Jake Hirz tied the game with a shot from the right side on assists from Justin Christ and Riley Vertosnik.
But Comets goalie Zac Boesel didn’t allow another goal to get past him, turning away all 16 shots the Eagles sent his way the final two periods.
“Our defense has been extremely good this year,” Boesel said. “I can’t take credit for it. You have to have the mindset to keeps things 0-0 in your head and it goes whatever way.”
Giannuzzi scored what turned out to be the game-winner on an unassisted goal with 5:27 left in the second period. Jacob Kramer scored the final goal from center ice with five seconds to go in the game.
“This is a challenge that we’ve been looking forward to,” Giannuzzi said. “There games are fun. I was frustrated after the way I played in the first period. I just got the puck to the net as hard as I could and it went in.”
Once the Comets had the lead, their trapping defense took over as they constantly poked the puck away to keep North Olmsted from getting any kind of offensive continuity going.
“It’s surprising,” Morris said of being back in the SWC championship game. “You don’t expect it when there are probably six or seven teams that could have won this thing. To be in the final … the kids need to be proud of that.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Amherst 3, North Olmsted 1
FIRST PERIOD: (A) Jacob Fekete, (Jacob Kramer, Tyler Waldecki), 8:46, (NO) Jake Hirz (Justin Christ, Riley Vertosnik), 7:54. PENALTIES: None.
SECOND PERIOD: (A) Michael Giannuzzi (unassisted), 5:27, PENALTIES: (NO) Vertosnik (2:00 head contact), 8:08.
THIRD PERIOD: (AM) Kramer (Fekete, Giannuzzi), EN, 0:05. PENALTIES: Hirz (2:00 roughing), 10:51, (NO) Vertosnik (2:00 tripping)
North Olmsted 1 0 0 — 1
Amherst 1 1 0 — 3
Shots on goal: North Olmsted 19 (3-11-5), Amherst 41 (10-15-16). Goalies: (NO) Ryan Godin (40 shots, 38 saves), (A) Zac Boesel (19 shots, 18 saves). Power-play opportunities: North Olmsted 0-0, Amherst 0-3.