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Interhall Hockey: Zahm upends Dillon to claim championship

Matt Gamber | Friday, February 22, 2008

Before the puck was even dropped for Wednesday night’s Interhall hockey title game – before Dillon even stepped onto the ice for warm-ups – Zahm had set the tone.

With its serious (well, as serious as Interhall gets) approach, which included professional-style jerseys, an organized pre-game routine, and a rowdy fanbase, the Zahmbies were able to outlast the defending champions 3-1 by scoring three unanswered second-half goals.

“We’ve been a second-half team all year,” said Zahm junior goalie Chris Hall, who made 17 saves to lock down the win. “I think our depth was really a key, and we were able to bounce back and keep throwing new guys out there. They had two rotating lines … eventually, you’re going to get tired.”

The teams played a fast-paced but scoreless first half, during which Zahm fired 19 shots, including five straight on one power play, at Dillon freshman netminder Sean Kearns, who made an array of spectacular saves with his stick, glove and body.

Despite all the Zahmbies’ chances, it was the Big Red that broke into the scoring column first. Though many of its early attempts came in transition following Zahm misses, it wasn’t until Dillon senior Jamie Rowland put home a rebound from junior Will Cushing 30 seconds into the second half that the Big Red made the score 1-0.

“I just crashed the net and tried to put it in off the rebound,” Rowland said. “We had two shots at it, and I finally put the third one in.”

Zahm nearly answered after the Rowland goal, but Kearns stuffed another two-on-one attempt, keeping the momentum on the Dillon side until a pair of Big Red penalties gave the Zahmbies a man-up advantage for four straight minutes midway through the half.

With just a few seconds remaining on the extended power play, senior Conor McNamara, a Carroll resident, received a textbook pass from sophomore Tim Thayer, who was stationed behind the net. McNamara blew the shot right by Kearns from eight feet, knotting the score at one and frustrating the Big Red bench.

“They just kept up the intensity and didn’t commit stupid penalties,” Rowland said. “We took too many cheap shots, and it cost us.”

Three minutes later, sophomore Greg Antell – another Carroll resident – gave the Zahmbies the lead for good with an unassisted short-handed goal. Antell took the puck from behind his own net, sliced through virtually the entire Dillon defense, then fired a wrister near the blue-line that beat Kearns to the top corner.

“I was just trying to full throttle the whole way – Charlie’s Angels 2 style,” Antell said. “I just like to snipe and dangle, and that’s what I tried to do as much as possible there – a la Bobby Orr.”

With just over two minutes remaining, Hall stuffed Dillon’s last real scoring chance, and the Big Red were forced to pull their goalie with a minute left and yet another player in the penalty box. Antell took advantage of the empty net and iced the game with 11.9 seconds remaining, clinching the title for the undefeated Zahmbies – who were a little more lighthearted during the victory celebration.

“I’d just like to thank the support system here for everything,” Antell said. “I have to thank God, my mom, my grandfather, everyone. It’s pretty much like the Stanley Cup. It’s as good as it gets.

“Did I give a good sound byte there?”