EAST ALTON — The East Alton-Wood River Oiler ice hockey team earned their second straight Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association Conference (MVCHA) 1A West Division championship on Thursday with a 2-0 shutout against the Bethalto Eagles at the East Alton Ice Arena.
EA-WR senior Seth Chester buried both goals for the Oilers to secure the championship while goaltender Blake Stone blocked 22 shots from the Eagles to earn his nickname "Stone Wall".
The victory sends the Oilers to the next round to face the 1A Edwardsville Tigers on Tuesday at 8:45 p.m. at EAIA.
Winning their last 10 games in a row, the Oilers wanted to prove to area teams that the 2013-2014 division championship wasn't a fluke by backing it up in the 2014-2015 season.
"After last year, our guys wanted to prove this year that the conference championship wasn't a lucky playoff run and a fluke," EA-WR head coach John Helmcamp said. "This year they won the division in the regular season and now the conference championship. It's hard to go back-to-back in any sport. They've already reached their first goal of the season, now we have a little more to go."
The Eagles entered Game 2 in a do-or-die situation after taking a 5-1 loss to the Oilers in Game 1.
Bethalto went a man short early when sophomore Colton Hamlett took a tripping major at 9:23 to give the Oilers a four-minute power play.
EA-WR senior Alec Revelle and Brandon Bailey each took shots at Bethalto goaltender Alec Hilliard, but Chester found the puck on a rebound and buried it for the Oilers at 6:20 to take a 1-0 lead with a power play goal. The Oilers kept the 1-0 advantage over the Eagles as the first period came to a close.
The Eagles picked up the pace and put heavy pressure on the Oilers by adding 11 shots on goal in the second period, but were unable to answer Chester's goal. Both the Eagles and the Oilers kept the penalty box empty through the second, keeping the game at even strength. The score remained 1-0 in favor of EA-WR at the end of the period.
"Tonight we were the team that people recognized," Bethalto head coach Corey Newgent said. "The guys did everything we asked them to do and made a complete 180 from their performance in Game 1. Last game we were spectators and tonight we controlled the pace of the game, especially in the second and third periods. We had a bad penalty in the first period that cost us and we had to play catch-up."
Facing the end of their season, the Eagles desperation began to show in the third period with five penalties in the last four minutes of the game. Bethalto forward Anthony Russo got the whistle at 3:39 for a tripping call to give the Oilers their second power play of the game.
EA-WR junior Cole Ford passed the puck to defenseman Blake Weishaupt who took a shot from the point. The rebound off the pads of Hilliard found Chester waiting and he buried the Oilers' insurance goal with just 2:05 remaining on the clock, giving EA-WR a 2-0 lead.
The Eagles' emotions got the best of them in the final minutes as the Oilers began to celebrate on the ice. Bethalto seniors Brayden Emerick and Aaron Scott took roughing and misconduct penalties with just 1.2 seconds remaining in their last career game.
The clock ran out and the Oilers celebrated, piling on Stone in the goal before they were presented with their second consecutive MVCHA 1A West Division championship trophy in front of family and friends. The Bethalto seniors were given a standing ovation to recognize their careers on the ice.
"The Oiler goaltender stood on his head tonight," Newgent said. "He did everything he could to not only make the initial save and then just suck everything up to where we didn't get a second or third shot. That's where we thrive and get most of our goals, those rebound opportunities. He covered everything up tonight. I told him after the game when we shook hands that he just won that game for the Oilers, that win was on him."
Helmcamp couldn't be prouder of his team's progression and improvement in his first season back with the Oilers.
"When you make a run like this, this makes 10 wins in a row, you have to have a team that has different guys stepping up at different times," Helmcamp said. "Alec Revelle has scored the most points during the playoffs and had an amazing Game 1 against the Eagles with two goals and an assist. Seth Chester got two goals tonight and Blake Stone was unbelievable in the net. You cannot win championships without different guys stepping up and making it happen. That's the character of this team. You don't know where it's coming from on any given night."
The Oilers are already looking forward to continue their postseason run against the 1A Edwardsville team on Tuesday.
"We have pretty much the same squad from last season," Chester said. "We hoped we'd be in this position at the end of the season, but we had to really come out and earn it. We've improved so much since the start of our season and ended strong with six straight wins to go into playoffs. It's my senior year and I couldn't be happier with my team. This win, this championship, it gives us the momentum going into the series with Edwardsville. We're ready and we will leave it all on the ice."
MVCHA NORTH DIVISION FINALS
EA-WR 2, BETHALTO 0
(EA-WR wins series 2-0)
EA-WR 1 0 1 — 2
Bethalto 0 0 0 — 0
E — Seth Chester (Alec Revelle, Brandon Bailey), 6:20
E — Chester (Blake Weishaupt, Cole Ford), 2:05
Shots on goal: Bethalto 22, EA-WR 17
Penalties: Bethalo, 22 minutes; EA-WR 6 minutes.