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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
Despite criticism from fans at Nationwide Arena and on social media, those involved in the state hockey championship game said they are confident they made the right decision in ending Saturday's night's contest after seven overtimes with Cleveland St. Ignatius and Sylvania Northview still tied at 1.
St. Ignatius and Northview were named co-champions for the Ohio High School Athletic Association hockey season.
"I'm always going to make decisions in the best interest of the kids. I personally don't care about any of the backlash," OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross said.
The game and its aftermath have drawn national media attention. Ross appeared today on The Dan Patrick Show, a nationally syndicated radio program that airs on WYTS-AM (1230). The game also has gained mention on national sports websites and received coverage from The New York Times.
Ross said he, assistant commissioner Steve Neil and Nationwide Arena state tournament director Joel Siegman met after they noticed "kids bending over, struggling to get back up after falling on the ice and coaches helping kids to the locker room" at the end of the seventh overtime.
Even though no players were injured, there were growing concerns about them "getting a little loopy" and the risk of injury increasing. St. Ignatius coach Pat O'Rourke and Northview's Michael Jones shook hands afterward and congratulated each other.
"They had a choice of stopping it, going one more or two more (OTs), but no more than two. (After that) we would declare them co-champs," Ross said.
Coaches and OHSAA personnel said there were no discussions about suspending the game and completing it yesterday. Future OHSAA tournament games might be halted earlier, even if it means implementing a shootout procedure, or tweaking overtime to a 4-on-4 situation to allow more offensive freedom, Ross said. Official discussions have not yet taken place, but the precedent has been set for those to potentially begin this offseason.
"My biggest problem with (a shootout) is it takes a team game and hangs it around a kid's neck for the rest of their lives," Ross said. "I'm sure there will be as many coaches who would say, 'Stay with overtime versus a shootout.' But we can certainly have that discussion."
The decision to declare the game a tie is not unprecedented. The Michigan High School Athletic Association called a tie in its 2008 Division I final after eight overtimes between Marquette and Orchard Lake St. Mary's, which also ended 1-1.
Count O'Rourke as one coach who would want to play for as long as it takes.
"We might have been playing until midnight," he said. "There was no quit in any of these kids."
Northview was making trips to the bus for supplies to keep the players hydrated.
"We were running back and forth, grabbing oranges and whatever else we could find in between overtimes," assistant coach Steve Elliott said.
In the end, much as the players wanted to continue, both coaches agreed that safety was paramount.
"It was an intense game, a long game. I'm not sure we were the best guys to ask the kids to stop playing, but it was made clear that this game was not going to go on forever and cooler heads prevailed," O'Rourke said.
The game goes down as the longest in state tournament history and second-longest in OHSAA history. It lasted 45 minutes in regulation and 56 minutes of overtime. Among the records set during the 101 minutes of hockey: St. Ignatius (30-4-6) had 78 shots on goal and goaltender David Marsh set the record for most saves, 77, for Northview (17-13-2).
"I'd love to see the game end in a regular fashion but it didn't, and it was still the best high-school hockey game I've ever seen," Ross said.
Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer St. Ignatius players weren't happy that their state-title game against Sylvania Northview was declared a tie after seven OTs.