Urbana hockey coach Toby Heusser knew this third meeting with the Washington County North Stars would be just as close as the previous two. He was also hoping it would end like the first two — with a win.
Instead, the North Stars’ Sammie Caesar took a pass from a teammate in overtime, setting up a breakaway situation. Caesar went one-on-one with Hawks goalie Joseph Zibragos, flipping the puck into the left corner of the net with 1 minute, 2 seconds to go for a 2-1 win in the Monocacy Cup championship game on Thursday at Skate Frederick.
“We knew going into the game these were two good teams that skate hard, fast-paced, with a fast-tempo game,” Heusser said. “We knew we would have to put the puck in their zone, work hard, press hard and, hopefully, get a few bounces to go our way. A couple of bounces just didn’t go our way. You have to give them credit for that.”
Urbana, the top seed in the playoffs, were out to defend their Monocacy Cup title. The Hawks won a 2-1 overtime decision over Carroll County last year in the title game.
With Washington County being the No. 2 seed this season, the final set up fairly evenly. Each team features two of the top goalies in the league. Zibragos turned back 18 shots for Urbana. Washington County’s Mason Widener had 28 saves.
The North Stars got the first goal at the 10-minute, 5-second mark of the first period when Jason Cantor scored an unassisted goal. Urbana’s Cory Heflin tied the score with 9:37 to go in the second period, putting a shot in close to the net on assists from Chris Rerko and Andrew Landry.
“It was a tip,” Heusser said of Heflin’s goal. “A defenseman shot it and then Cory was right in front to take the shot.”
Both teams had their chances through the rest of regulation. Zibragos and Widener clamped down in the net, knocking away shots, making diving glove saves, even making mid-air catches of shots before dropping them away from the net to be cleared out by a defender, or just clearing the puck to the corners for defenders to pick up.
The Hawks and North Stars also killed off 10 minutes of penalties. Urbana was 0-for-3 in power-play opportunities. Washington County was 0-for-2.
The North Stars got the break they would need with overtime winding down.
Widener cleared the puck out to defender Klayton Barr. He flipped the puck to Caesar, who beat his defender and darted toward Zibragos. Caeser’s goal set off a celebration on the Washington County bench.
“They got two goals on us. Those are just plays that happen,” Heusser said. “We told the guys this game was going to come down to a bad turnover, a bad bounce. In the end, that’s what happened. Overall, we played a great game. Nothing to be ashamed about.”
Thursday’s game may not be the final meeting this season between Urbana and Washington County. Both have qualified for the Maryland Student Hockey League playoffs, which begin next week.
“We could face them again,” Heusser said. “We just have to wait and see how the playoff system shakes out.”