Evan Pahos was a spoiler at the March 10 state hockey championship game at the Pepsi Center, but he finally brought an outburst of cheers from Valor Christian fans.
Pahos, a 160-pound Valor junior forward, blemished a national-record-tying performance by Fort Collins goalie Sam Simon when he scored the winning goal with 2:12 left in the fifth overtime period to give Valor Christian a 1-0 win over the Lambkins.
It gave Valor (20-2-1) its first state hockey championship while Fort Collins wound up with an 18-4-1 final record.
Valor controlled play most of the game but couldn't score against Simon, who made 84 saves to tie the National Federation of High Schools record set by Jamey Ramsey of Michigan's Flint Northern in 1987.
Simon's dominance finally ended when Pahos concluded the longest game in state championship history as the fifth overtime was winding down.
“I stepped up on a guy at the blue line and ended up making a little move on the next defenseman and cut across the crease and just shoved it under his pad and it went in,” said Pahos, who also had the game-winning goal in Valor's 2-1 semifinal win over Regis Jesuit. “I felt like we dominated but their goalie was just unbelievable. ”
Simon was kneeling after the game near where players and the Zambonis leave the ice but players, coaches and Pepsi Center workers kept patting him on his back and he once muttered, “I could have stopped that shot.”
But Valor kept Simon busy most of the game with an 85-36 advantage on shots on goal.
Eagles goalie Trey Hirschfield had to overcome a lack of shots against him early in the game but then made several key stops in getting the shutout victory with his 36 saves.
“Zero goals against is a great achievement,” said Hirschfield. “Working as a wolf pack just shows how we all came together, played defense to protect our own net first and then in the fifth overtime we finally worried about their net. I can't take much credit for that. It was mostly my team and my defense. We had two guys block shots with their faces.
“That was the best game I've ever seen a goalie play in my life,” he added about Simon's performance. “I felt a little shaky in the beginning of the game because of the atmosphere but after I got settled in, I tried to stay focused on the game and what was going on and just focused on the next puck. “
Players were on the ice for over 88 minutes in the five overtimes. After the three regulation 17-minute periods, the two teams played two eight-minute sudden victory overtimes followed by two eight-minute OT sessions of four-on-four hockey before the game finally ended with Pahos' goal.
Valor coach George Gwozdecky said the Eagles ran out of snacks and energy drinks after the first overtime, and he watched Fort Collins kill two Valor 4-on-3 power plays during the fourth and start of the fifth overtime periods.
“It was just a matter of time before someone was going to make an error or mistake and somebody take advantage of it, and we were able to do that.,” said Gwozdecky, who coached at the University of Denver and two years in the NHL before becoming Valor's coach four years ago. “It's about time to win a championship. This was our third straight time to be in the Frozen Four.
“Sam Simon did a great job. There are so many superlatives you can use to describe his performance. I thought Trey Hirschfield obviously didn't get as much action but there were a couple saves on two-on-ones in the game, but as the game wore on you could really see the ice start to tilt, with our depth being a factor. Simon kept them in the game.”
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