EAST ALTON – The way the Alton Redbirds saw it, they did everything but win Thursday’s taut MVCHA playoff thriller against unbeaten Edwardsville.
The Tigers prevailed in a wild one, 5-4, that featured a dramatic finish, notably a disallowed tying goal in the final moments. Edwardsville’s narrow victory at the East Alton Ice Arena ousted Alton in the best two-of-three 2A North finals.
Edwardsville, 20-0 and 2-0 in the playoffs, advanced to the championship round against either Triad or O’Fallon. Alton, which ended 16-7, lost to the Tigers four times this season.
However, the latest loss went to the wire and Redbirds’ coach Abram Henson praised his team’s gritty effort.
“I’m extremely proud of the way we played,” Henson said. “That’s the best we have played against Edwardsville and it might be the best that any team has played against them.
“I felt we outworked them.”
Nine different players scored in the freewheeling contest, and Alton outshot Edwardsville, 33-20. It appeared the Redbirds and the Tigers were headed to a shootout, but Alex Rubin’s tally with 2.5 seconds to go was disallowed. Officials ruled the goal frame came off its moorings – thus negating Rubin’s score -- following a mad scramble in front of the net.
“It just happens. Some officials call it and some don't," Henson said of ruling on the disallowed goal. “It is what it is."
The referees put four seconds back on the clock and Tigers’ coach Jason Walker experienced a sense of relief when the game ended.
“We made enough plays tonight to sneak through,” he said. “Give them (Redbirds) credit. They played hard and we turned over the puck too much. It was a different game from the other times we played them.”
Three Edwardsville goals in a span of 7 minutes, 32 seconds of the second and third periods enabled the Tigers to shoot ahead 5-2. Alton led 1-0, Edwardsville got the next two goals before the Redbirds knotted it at 2-2 by the end of the first period.
Yet the Birds weren’t finished scoring. Scott Waldrup, assisted by Kain Henson, punched in a goal to cut the Tigers’ lead to 5-3 with 10:26 remaining in the game. Then teammate Christian Shank, assisted by Jake Bohn and Henson, scored with 3:55 to go and it was a one-goal difference.
The Birds buzzed around the Tigers’ net in hopes of getting the tying goal, but Edwardsville goalie Justin Nosser made some key saves. He made 29 stops overall, while Alton goalie Mitch Klug had 15 saves.
“That’s probably the first time we have been outshot this season,” Walker said. “We had some guys step up for us when we needed them to do it.”
Colin Kelsey, Cody Farmer, Jake Aurelio, Christian Trevino and Tyler Schaeffer scored for the Tigers, who survived Blake Thomlison’s game misconduct penalty in the second period. It was Schaeffer’s 46th goal, tying him with coach Walker (a player in 2001-02) for the team’s single-season record.
Jake Cunningham and Brendan Lowe also scored for Alton. Henson assisted on Lowe’s goal and finished the night with three assists. Cunningham’s goal was unassisted.
“Kain’s a natural leader for us,” coach Henson.
He added, “I’m very proud of the way we played, and we had a phenomenal season. I don’t have enough good things that I can say about our kids and the way they played.”
2A NORTH FINALS
EDWARDSVILLE 5, ALTON 4
(Edwardsville wins series, 2-0)
Edwardsville 2 1 2 – 5
Alton 2 0 2 – 4
A – Jake Cunningham (unassisted), 9:43
E – Colin Kelsey (Tyler Schaeffer), 9:14
E – Cody Farmer (Cole Krebs), 7:58
A – Brendan Lowe (Henson), 2:29
E – Jake Aurelio (Carson Lewis), 2:36
E – Christian Trevino (Nick Austin), 12:27
E – Schaeffer (unassisted), 11:04
A – Scott Waldrup (Henson), 10:26
A – Christian Shank (Jake Bohn, Henson), 3:55
Shots on goal: Alton 33, Edwardsville 20
Saves: Nosser (Edwardsville) 29, Klug (Alton) 15
Penalties: Edwardsville, 6 for 13 minutes, plus game misconduct; Alton, 5 for 10 minutes.