Whitfield wins Wickenheiser Cup championship in a shootout
By: Warren Mayes
It took time but the Whitfield Warriors are the Wickensheiser Cup champions.
Whitfield senior captain Hunt Lucas scored the only goal in a shootout to lift the No. 7-seeded Warriors to a 6-5 victory over No. 1-seeded Lutheran South in the Mid-States Club Hockey Association’s competition at the Scottrade Center. Twice during the regular season, the Lancers defeated Whitfield, including one by a 10-2 margin.
“It was an unbelievable game,” Whitfield coach Jim Campbell said. “The two teams couldn’t have been matched better. Both teams were jacked up for the game. It was a great game. It went right down to the wire.”
Whitfield finished 20-8-1. Lutheran South wound up 19-9-1.
Lucas was named the Most Valuable Player in the game.
“He is a great kid all through the time I’ve had him,” Campbell about Lucas. “He was a great season this year for us and a great career, too. He’s a real dedicated kid. He comes from a great family. Lucas is a really talented forward. He has very good stickhandling skills and good hockey sense.
“I think he can go play juniors and have a nice college career for himself.”
Junior goaltender Alan Eidelman thwarted all the Lutheran South opportunities in the shootout.
“He’s had a great season,” Campbell said about Eidelman. “He’s our only goalie. We didn’t have a backup. He was a total ironman goalie. Alan has a great work ethic.”
Whitfield got goals from Jake Andrews, Ryan MacInnis, Peter Boldt, Marty Rubin and Hunt during the game. MacInnis also had two assists.
Christopher Hill scored a hat trick and added an assist for the Lancers. Cameron Durham and Zack Beining also scored for Lutheran South.
Last year, the Warriors won the Founder’s Cup, which is for teams that did not make the Wickenheiser and Challenge Cup tournaments. Whitfield last won the Wickenheiser Cup in 2008 before Campbell began coaching the team.
It came down to the shootout. Campbell said the Warriors end every practice working on shootout situations.
“We do just for fun because it’s a big part of the game sometimes,” Campbell said. “Our goalie has competition doing that. The players enjoy it.”
Picking the three shooters for the shootout was easy, Campbell said.
“We know who the best shooters are,” Campbell said. “We didn’t plan for that. It wasn’t something set up before the game. We planned on winning in regulation. But it happened. We told them to just enjoy the whole experience. I told them we have practiced for this so just go out and play.”
Campbell acknowledged he was battling a case of nerves going into the shootout.
“I was very nervous,” Campbell said. “I was joking then and trying to keep it loose for everyone. It was up to the three shooters and our goaltender. It was out of my hands. We all just hoped for the best.”
Lutheran South has the first opportunity but didn’t score. Lucas was No. 1 shooter for Whitfield. He scored.
“Hunt was the natural choice for the No. 1 spot,” Campbell said. “It was something to see. He went all over the place. He had three or four dekes. He’s got good hands and patience. The goalie tried to poke-check him and he slid it in on his backhand. It was awesome.”
MacInnis was second shooter for Whitfield but he didn’t score. Eidelman thwarted the third Lancer’s shot.
“I think Alan loved it out there,” Campbell said. “I think he thrives in those situations. He has been great all year in goal for us. He takes pride in his job. It was hit time to shine and he certainly stepped up.”
Whitfield was the new Wickenheiser Cup champion. The celebration began.
“They all went out and piled on Alan,” Campbell said. “The bench threw gloves, sticks and helmets out on the ice. It was a lot of fun. It was a big moment for the kids. It was fun to see it.”
Campbell noted as happy as Whitfield was, it had to be hard for Lutheran South.
“I’m sure it was kind of tough for them,” Campbell said. “To be on the other side and lose like that is probably pretty hard. They are a well coached team. They were great sportsmen. They have great players over there. They played a great game, too.”
Andrews scored the first goal about 58 seconds into the game.
“That’s a great way to start off a game,” Campbell said. “That was a big goal for us. It’s always nice to score first and break through.”
Lutheran South did not wilt and came back to score to tie it a 1 after one period.
In the second period, Whitfield took a 2-1 lead on a goal by MacInnis. Again, the Lancers came back to tie it. Lucas and Boldt scored. Whitfield held a 4-2 lead after two periods.
“We were feeling pretty good,” Campbell said. “But we knew we had to keep playing well. There was another period to play.”
Lutheran South scored on a power play in the first minute of the third period.
“That put us back on our heels,” Campbell said. “They tied it up. It was a real battle.”
Rubin scored with about 3 minutes to play, giving Whitfield a 5-4 lead. However, Lutheran South would not fold and tied the game with about 90 seconds left.
“They just kept coming back,” Campbell said. “It was a tough battle out there.”
In overtime, Eidelman made a big save early. Lucas had a breakaway but did not score. That led to the shootout when neither team scored.
“The teams were so close,” Campbell. “It was an evenly matched game.”
Whitfield loses seven seniors to graduation but many talented players will be back.
“We will have a good nucleus next year,” Campbell said. “We’re expecting big things again next year. We’ll have a real good core to work with.
“This season was just great for us. We had good kids. I want to thank the school for its support and all of the parents for their support. It will be something for all us to remember and enjoy.”