A sudden but pronounced shift in momentum helped send the New Albany hockey team to its first state tournament.

Brandon Barash gave the Eagles the lead for good off a turnover with three minutes left in the second period of the district final March 7 against Olentangy Liberty at OhioHealth Ice Haus, and Jackson Buss scored a power-play goal two minutes later as the fourth-seeded Eagles took control and then held off the third-seeded Patriots 4-2.

“We came out slow and they had the jump on us, but we focused, got the lead and maintained our defense,” Buss said. “They were more prepared. They were beating us to the puck … but we fixed that.

“This is a miracle that this happened. This was such a huge win. I’m at a loss for words for what this means to us and our program.”

New Albany goaltender Max Dupler made 44 saves as the Eagles improved to 21-14-2 and advanced to play Toledo St. Francis in a state semifinal March 14 at Nationwide Arena. Dupler’s outing came on the heels of a 40-save performance in a 3-2 upset of top-seeded and previously unbeaten Upper Arlington in a district semifinal March 1.

New Albany’s Zach Blaney tied the game at 1 off a rebound five minutes into the second period.

Matthew Moellering added an empty-net goal with seven seconds left and also recorded two assists.

Korey Raymond scored both of Liberty’s goals, the first coming 1:55 into the second period and the second with 32.8 seconds remaining to make it 3-2. Patriots goalie Andrew Vidrick made 21 saves.

“It was a terrible finish to the second period,” said Liberty coach Kevin Alexander, whose team finished 25-6-5-1 and finished as district runner-up for the third consecutive season. “It’s been our thing all year, and it came back to bite us again, was falling apart in the second period and not bringing it home.”

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