In the Championship game of the Admirals Cup, the Homestead Highlanders faced the Marquette Hilltoppers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Highlanders got the tournament title in a hard fought win with a final score of 5-3.
The Highlanders took an early lead, scoring just four minutes and 11 seconds into the game. Riley Dixon took the puck up the left side of the ice and took a shot from the outside hashmarks. Joey Hobbs was planted in front of the net and tipped the puck in the net for the goal.
A short 33 seconds later, senior captain Michael Schulz was sent to the box on a tripping call.
After a successful penalty kill, they found themselves shorthanded once again as Jake Hansen served two minutes for interference. The Hilltoppers returned to the powerplay even stronger and found the back of the net 14 seconds into the rush. Patrick Llaurado took a shot that rebounded in front of Jackson Weiss who took the shot from the mid-slot for the goal. JJ Kispert also earned an assist on the play.
Marquette then found their turn to play shorthanded. Penalties for interference and tripping gave Homestead the 5-on-3 advantage, and Ryan Mezera capitalized to regain the lead. Schulz assisted the play.
A shot by Homestead’s Cole Simpson got past Marquette goaltender, Scott Pelkowski, after ricocheting off of his helmet with 6.4 seconds to play in the period, which tilted the momentum in Homestead’s direction for the beginning of play in the second.
A new energy was almost tangible in the rink as both teams came out stronger and more aggressive in the second period. The play remained a lot more even throughout the game.
With 7:08 to play in the second period, Charles Bolles narrowed Homestead’s lead to one with a goal assisted by Jack O’Connor and Weiss. O’Connor got caught up with Schulz near the high slot before he passed the puck to Bolles who waited on the left side of the net. His shot snuck between Highlanders’ goalie Ethan Levy’s right pad and the post.
Both teams tallied many quality shots, but both goaltenders remained solid throughout the period. The third period arrived with lots of back and forth play, both teams knowing what was at stake.
After an uneventful start to the period, Schulz scored for the Highlanders with 6:11 left to play. Jon Weyker had passed him the puck from behind the net before he scored his goal.
As the play got more physical, the refs were forced to call more penalties. With three minutes and 53 seconds to play, Brady Bjork headed to the box for interference, and 33 seconds later, Mezera joined him for boarding. With a 5-on-3 advantage, Marquette’s Kispert scored a powerplay goal assisted by Llaurado that invigorated the team for the last few minutes of play.
Things looked up for the Highlanders when Nolan Diffley was sent to the sin bin to serve his two minutes for slashing. The play would remain even at 4 for the next 5 seconds before Homestead took over on the powerplay.
Marquette called for a timeout with a minute and 25 seconds to play to devise a game plan and decided to pull Pelkowski in an attempt to tie the game at 4.
Mezera scored the empty net goal from Adam Hobbs to ensure the win and the Admirals Cup title.