NEWARK, Del. — Avon Grove players couldn’t wait for the final seconds to tick off the clock before jumping over the boards to pile on top of goaltender Ryan Lloyd as they pulled off a stunning 2-1 win over defending champion Delaware Military Academy (DMA) in the DSHA Championship game Sunday night at the Fred Rust Ice Arena.
“Oh my gosh, I don’t even have words,” said Avon Grove captain Pat Huver. “It feels so good. We played such a great game.”
But just how amazing was the victory?
To put it into perspective, DMA didn’t lose a single game all season long, going 16-0 and out-scoring opponents 144-13 — until Sunday night when the Seahawks faced Lloyd in net.
“It’s my senior year and we went out with a bang,” Lloyd said. “To lose to them in the first game pretty bad and to come back and beat them is just a great feeling.”
Lloyd, who admitted to facing probably more shots than he has all season, couldn’t take all the credit for the win.
“Our guys played a great game,” he said. “Just non-stop — they didn’t quit. That’s what I love about this team. I’m glad we could bring home the ‘W.’”
His coach had nothing but praise for his play in the game.
“Ryan just stood on his head,” said Bill Dixson. “He kept us in there. He got the game puck.”
None of it came easy to Avon Grove, including when Mother Nature even intervened.
The original Championship game was to be played March 1, but due to the snow and ice combination, the match was postponed a week, leaving the players on both sides chomping at the bit to play.
“I hated it,” Lloyd said. “I can’t stand being off the ice and not playing, but it is what it is. I think it gave us a little time to think about what we had to do.”
To add to that, Avon Grove was then facing an undefeated team — the same one who beat them 8-1 earlier in the season.
“I knew right from the get-go we needed confidence in our freshmen and upperclassmen,” Huver said. “Stepping out (on the ice) with all those people is something unreal. You’re just going on straight adrenaline and you just keep your feet moving and hope for the best.”
An early goal from Avon Grove was the ultimate confidence booster Avon Grove needed as they held onto that lead until halfway through the game when DMA converted on a 5-on-3.
But the Red Devils weren’t going to let that stand as they converted on a power play of their own with just 59.1 seconds left in the middle frame.
Dixson had a few words for his team as they awaited the start of the final period.
“Discipline, discipline,” he said. “Control the puck, play the body and play hard. Everybody skates.”
And it was exactly what his team did as the defense stepped up even more to clear pucks out of the crease and help their goaltender.
Before they knew it, there were just a couple minutes left in the game as they continued to hold onto their one-goal lead.
“You have so many jitters going,” Huver said. “You just have to move your feet, get the puck deep and try to make the smart play and not try not to do too much.”
Their formula worked as the frustrated DMA took penalties at the end of the game, ultimately sealing its fate and allowing Avon Grove to be crowned as the new champions of the DSHA.
“Best game of the season, by far, without any doubt.,” Huver said. “And we needed it, too, to beat that team.”
Will it possibly go down as the greatest game in Avon Grove team history?
“I hope so,” Huver said with a smile. “I think so, at least.”