Two game-winning goals, one in a shootout and one in overtime, scored 24 hours apart? Nobody playing Illinois high school hockey had a better weekend than Hinsdale Central’s Alex Dwyer.
The Red Devils forward buried the lone conversion in a semifinal shootout win over Neuqua Valley on Saturday, and then scored the game-winner against the DuPage Stars in overtime of the McKeague Cup JV title game on Sunday.
Dwyer went end-to-end in the second, 3-on-3 overtime period to give Hinsdale Central a 2-1 win.
“It's been a while since I scored goals two games in a row,” Dwyer said. “I saw open ice and thank God I kicked it when I lost control of it at the end. Then I saw an open side on his blocker. My stick was out, I shot it, and it went in.
“I knew they weren't that fast but they move the puck very well, so the key tonight was spreading them out and making them run all over the place. We’re built around speed so I knew we could out-run them.”
Dwyer’s coast-to-coast goal ended the game and started Hinsdale Central’s on-ice celebration, culminating in being handed the silver McKeague Cup trophy.
“They battled from the very start,” Hinsdale Central coach Dane Sana said of his boys. “They were ready. They were preparing mentally for the entire week, working on a lot of different things in practice, and really found some success.
“Tonight it was their pursuit of the puck. On any loose puck we made an effort to be the first ones there. It's a small thing, but it’s a lot of small things that lead up to success.”
Hinsdale Central had most of the puck in posting a 24-17 edge in shots over DuPage, and both regulation goals scored came in the first period. Central’s Dylan Behar scored just 24 seconds into the game off a Noah Rzeppa assist, and DuPage tied the game at the 10:42 mark on a Jeremy Lemmy goal, with Cam Thiel on the assist.
Behar followed up a shot taken by Rzeppa and buried the rebound for his goal, while Thiel fed Lemmy in front for his game-tying goal. Lemmy also scored twice in DuPage’s 4-3 semifinal win over Oswego, including the game-winner with 7 seconds left in the third period.
After Lemmy knotted Sunday’s game, for roughly the next 55 minutes neither Hinsdale Central goalie Dylan Dwyer nor DuPage goalie Eli Mathieu were willing to budge.
Hinsdale Central earned a 15-10 edge in shots through three periods of play.
“Today the boys moved the puck really well,” Central captain Emmet McConnell said. “Moving the puck has been one of our struggles this season but we were making good passes. Everyone showed up and we played as a team and no one played the game by themselves today.”
One key stretch of play came when DuPage went on the power play, with 10:17 to play in the third period. Hinsdale Central’s penalty kill crew didn’t allow DuPage a single shot on Dwyer, and kept the puck on DuPage’s defensive end for much of its one-man disadvantage.
“That was tricky,” Central defenseman Thomas DeBruin said. “Normally when you're on a penalty kill you’re taught to stay back, but we put a lot of pressure on and that reaped some benefits.
“Our skills got a lot better this year. Our passing completely sucked at the beginning of the year and that got a lot better. And we're working a lot cleaner.”
DeBruin got some kudos from his coach at game’s end.
“He’s one of those individuals who maybe gets overshadowed,” Sana said of DeBruin. “In the defensive zone, he's very good at breaking the puck out. You might not see his name in the box score but I’m very proud of him and the way he plays for us.”
The first 10-minute overtime period featured 5-on-5 hockey to settle things. Hinsdale Central’s Carter Draudt skated up the left side early on but Mathieu turned away his shot, and Dwyer gloved a shot from DuPage’s Anthony Maffei soon thereafter. Mathieu turned away an Alex Dwyer shot with roughly three minutes left in the overtime, and Dylan Dwyer stopped consecutive shots from Maffei down the stretch.
Alex Dwyer ripped a shot from the left side early in the second overtime that Mathieu stopped, and Mathieu gloved another Dwyer shot taken from the right side.
Dylan Dwyer gloved a Lemmy shot near the 6-minute mark of the second overtime, just before Alex Dwyer took off on his game-winning trip up the ice.
“I think the Dwyer's played really well, obviously,” DeBruin said. “Jack Carlin had a leg injury earlier and he has really stepped up, and I have to give a shout out to my linemen Carter Draudt and Dylan Behar.”
There was no shortage of players chipping in to help Central hoist the McKeague Cup on Sunday.
“I have to mention both of our goaltenders, Dylan Dwyer, and Nate Conway. They were instrumental through the playoffs,” Sana said. “Emmet (McConnell) has been a leader since day one and I'm really proud of his ability to be that liaison between the coaches and the boys.
“At the start of the season, we had a lot of defensemen so we had a lot of defensemen making the transition to play forward. Every single one of the boys embraced that change and became students of the game. So they've come a long way, and that's all based on their work ethic.”