During the final minute of both the first and second periods of its state semifinal March 11 at Nationwide Arena, the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team gave up a goal to Toledo St. Francis.
With the momentum in their favor, the Knights scored five goals in the third period en route to an 8-2 win over the Patriots.
St. Francis improved to 26-6 and advanced to face Hunting Valley University School or Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state final March 12 at Nationwide Arena, while Liberty finished 31-8-1.
The Patriots also lost in state semifinals in 2011 and ’13.
“Those are the toughest goals to give up at the end of the first period and the end of the second period,” Liberty coach Jack Hoogeveen said. “That’s momentum for them.”
St. Francis, which won state titles in 2011 and ’15 and was a state semifinalist last season, took a 1-0 lead with 9 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first period on a goal by Nick Daly.
Liberty tied the game at 1 on a goal by Jimmy Bursinger with 49.8 seconds left in the opening period, but the Knights made it 2-1 on an unassisted goal by Kevin Hack with 11.1 seconds left.
Liberty again tied the game just 38 seconds into the second period as Ron Ambrosia scored off an assist from Craig Lutwen.
The Patriots had a flurry of scoring chances with about three minutes left in the period but weren’t able to convert, and the Knights took a 3-2 lead with 37.4 seconds left in the period on a rebound goal by Warren Natyshak.
“It’s pretty deflating,” Bursinger said. “You’ve got all the momentum and they have that response.”
In the third period, St. Francis had a pair of short-handed goals and Hack completed a hack trick by scoring the final two goals.