NORTH OLMSTED — With 3:28 left in overtime, North Olmsted senior Riley Vertosnik sent everyone home.
Vertosnik beat Avon Lake with an overtime goal for the second time this season, slipping a deflected pass past Shoremen goalie Dillon Aslaksen to give the Eagles a 5-4 overtime win Sunday in the Southwestern Conference semifinals at North Olmsted Recreation Center.
North Olmsted (6-8-2), the second seed, will face top-seeded Amherst in today’s championship game at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s crazy … whenever you’re in an overtime game you never know what’s going to happen,” Vertosnik said. “We’ve been working on staying in front of the net. (Jake Mlady) was below the goal line so I went to the front. He put it there. It was tipped and got over to me and I was able to put it in for the winner.”
The Shoremen (13-9-3) took a 1-0 lead into the second period, but four North Olmsted power-play goals put them in a hole. Avon Lake killed off a late five-minute major after fighting back to tie the game at 4 in the third period, but couldn’t get the game-winner.
“They had four power-play goals in the second, and that hurt,” Avon Lake coach Steve Burns said. “We were coming from behind. I thought we were fresher towards the end of the third and in overtime, but (Vertosnik) made a great play.
“He’s a really good player. We talked how he was the one to watch out for, and, unfortunately, he was the one that got it. He beats us again for the second time in two weeks in overtime. It’s a bummer, but hopefully we learn from it.”
Eagles coach Ben Palocko was happy to see his team find some good luck.
“We caught a bounce at the right time,” he said. “We haven’t caught a lot of bounces lately, so it was good to get that one to go our way.”
Although North Olmsted scored five goals, Aslaksen kept the game close with 44 saves, including a number of acrobatic ones.
“Over the last month, Dillon has been playing the best hockey I’ve seen from any goalie in this area,” Burns said. “He’s had a couple of 50-save games and two of his three shutouts this year have come in the last month.
“He’s been beyond belief and we’re just happy to have him on our side. He’s keeping us in games and, tonight, without him it would have been a different story.”
Palocko was impressed with Aslaksen as well.
“He was lying on his back, he was standing on his head. We peppered him,” he said. “We were handing it to him between periods, saying if we didn’t win this game that kid was the MVP. He was tremendous today.”
Even Vertosnik liked what he saw from the opposing goalie.
“I think he’s one of the better goalies we play against,” he said. “It’s always rough, getting all those shots and nothing is going in. He played phenomenal. You just have to keep shooting and capitalize on the ones you do get on him.”
Despite the loss, Burns thought his Shoremen played well.
“I’m not upset at all. I’m very proud of the way they played,” he said. “One bounce, one rattle from behind the net. A bad bounce going our way would have been great. It didn’t happen but I can’t complain.”
North Olmsted 5, Avon Lake 4 (OT)
FIRST PERIOD: (AL) Brian Walasinski, power play (Murphy Mohar), 3:34. Penalties — (NO) Jake Hirz (2:00 interference); (NO) Ashton Banhidy (5:00 boarding); (AL) Colin Reynolds (2:00 interference)
SECOND PERIOD: (NO) Riley Vertosnik, power play (Justin Christ, Travis Vitaz), 14:40; (NO) Vitaz, power play (Shawn Donovan), 11:53; (NO) Donovan, power play (Jake Mlady, Hirz), 10:32; (AL) Devin Elliott (Thomas Kaczmarcik), 6:10; (NO) Christ, power play (Vertosnik, Vitaz), 2:42; (AL) Justin Share, power play (Kacmarcik, Reynolds), 1:12. Penalties — (AL) Walasinski (5:00 boarding); (AL) Reynolds (2:00 hooking)
THIRD PERIOD: (AL) Share, power play (Kacmarick), 10:20. Penalties — (NO) Mlady (2:00 roughing); (NO) Joseph Warszawski (2:00 roughing); (AL) Walasinski (2:00 roughing); (AL) Hunter Hall (2:00 high-sticking); (AL) Devin Elliott (5:00 check from behind); (AL) Elliott (10:00 misconduct)
OVERTIME: (NO) Vertosnik (Christ, Mlady), 3:28. Penalties — (NO) Vitaz (2:00 roughing)
Avon Lake 1 2 1 0 — 4
North Olmsted 0 4 0 1 — 5
Shots on goal: Avon Lake 26 (9-11-5-1), North Olmsted 49 (14-16-14-5). Saves: (NO) Joseph Warszawski 22, (AL) Dillon Aslaksen 44. Faceoffs won: Avon Lake 29, North Olmsted 36