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Arizona hockey: Wildcats write storybook ending on senior night as they overcome a four goal deficit vs. ASU

It was the picture perfect storyline for their final home game of the season

John Hogan scores on his senior night to decrease Arizona State’s lead to one
Rachel Huston

It was a storybook ending for the heroes of our story.

The good guys overcame a 4-0 deficit in the last ten minutes of the game, tied it up, and the evil was vanquished in a shootout.

No fairytale has as happy of an ending as the final home game for Arizona for the 2016-17 season.

The game started with a ceremony honoring all six of Arizona’s seniors. Sean Ozment, Toppie Hogan, John Hogan, Alex O’dea, Robbie Wilkinson, and Garrett Patrick each took a lap around the ice, waved to the crowd, and smiled despite the emotional night that was ahead. It was their last game at the TCC, a place they had all called home for so long.

So there was only one goal in mind: win it for the seniors.

Right out of the gates, Arizona was riding some momentum from their win the previous night against in-state rival, and current opponent, Arizona State. They were as physical and skillful as always, but ASU didn’t want to be embarrassed two nights in a row, so they too played at the top of their game. The teams rushed up and down the ice, trading quality chances, but the goalies stood tall and the first period remained scoreless.

The second period was a different story.

The Wildcats looked like a different team. They were slow, turned the puck over frequently, lost opportunities, and lost tempers as the game started to slip. It was penalties that would tie up Arizona that period, but it wasn’t even their own penalties. It was a shorthanded Sun Devils goal that increased their lead to 2-0 and took all the energy out of the already deflated Wildcats.

Every fan’s heart was heavy as the third period rolled around. Arizona hadn’t scored a single goal on Senior night — you just can’t do that. With the next two Arizona State goals coming early in the final stanza, everyone in the arena felt something so indescribable. The 4-0 score on the board felt intimidating, but there was no possible way it could stay that way. Everyone knew Arizona just couldn’t get shutout on senior night.

So they didn’t.

Eleven minutes left and Arizona was on the board with a goal from Ozment. I felt chills run over my shoulders and spine. Yes, it was a fairly cold Arizona night and I was next to a thick sheet of ice, but those chills were different. Something was brewing and it was creeping up on me and everyone in the arena.

Everyone pictured what happened next, but never expected it to actually happen.

After the first goal, I kept telling myself how great it would be to write about an incredible comeback, but I didn’t want to jinx it, so I suppressed the thought of overcoming a, now, three goal deficit.

But the boys on the ice didn’t suppress that thought.

The final ten minutes ticked by painfully slow but it was the most energy packed ten minutes I’d ever witnessed. Suddenly it was 2-4 thanks to Matthew Armenti, then it was 3-4 with a goal from John Hogan.

Surely it couldn’t be tied up!

With twenty seconds left, Arizona made it happen on a goal from Kyle Fargesen. In ten minutes, the Wildcats had dug themselves out of a hole, and they weren’t going down without a fight this time.

The drop of the puck in overtime signaled for every fan in the arena to stand and stand in semi-silent awe as the puck and players danced across the ice. The only noise came from a big hit, or a shot on goal, and each cheer was a rallying cry. A powerplay for the Wildcats came not too far into overtime, but nothing came of it as both teams buckled down, neither ready to lose that night. The Wildcats did have pressure — constant pressure — in the Sun Devils’ zone.

But no one found twine, so it was onto a shootout.

Arizona State was up first to shoot. The crowd booed angrily as the black sweater skated towards senior goaltender Garrett Patrick. The puck bounced off Patrick and away into open ice. It was a save; the crowd went wild.

On the other end of the ice, Toppie Hogan squared up against the Arizona State goaltender. He worked a little magic and tucked the puck in past the goalie’s left skate and into the net. The crowd went wild again.

Arizona State’s next shot sneaked in past Patrick, but Jason Zaleski put the pressure on by netting his shot at the other end of the ice. Zaleski pulled the same move as Hogan, the puck sneaking past the goalie’s left skate.

But then the pressure started to really amp up as the Sun Devils scored again against Patrick. Kyle Fargesen stepped up as the next shooter for Arizona.

If he netted it, they’d win.

He netted it and they won.

The second they knew they’d won, every Wildcat flew off the bench to surround their goalie and create an image that reminded me of when USA beat the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Emotions filled the air. It was pure bliss as the boys saluted the fans and banged their hands on the boards, thanking the fans for their commitment. The win meant they had a likely spot in the National Tournament in Columbus, Ohio in March, and also the pride of sweeping their biggest rival.

Just like everyone had scripted it.

The ACHA Tournament starts on March 9 at the Ohio Health Chiller Ice Rink.