By GREG GULAS
BOARDMAN -- For the Poland Bulldogs, it was only fitting that it would take three overtimes to decide their first-ever Northeast Ohio High School Hockey Association crown.
At The Ice Zone Sunday, Robbie Wyand's goal at 3 minutes, 30 seconds of the third overtime gave the Bulldogs a 6-5 victory over the North Allegheny Tigers, in the longest contest ever played in the five-year history of the league.
"I cannot tell you how excited I am right now," Wyand said about his game-winning shot. "This is one tremendous feeling.
"We were down 4-2 earlier in the year to North Allegheny and managed a 5-5 tie in the regular season," he added. "I guess there's a lot of truth to the saying the game is never over until the fat lady sings. To be down like we were today, fight back to send the game into overtime and then win it in the extra session, this is a very special feeling."
Assists on game winner
The game-winning shot, assisted by Brett Pitzulo and Jack Crish, came after Wyand's first attempt hit the post then bounced back to him.
"We've been best friends since the eighth grade and we've played plenty of hockey during that time," Pitzulo said. "We know exactly where each other is on the ice and that is what happened on Robbie's winning tally. He was simply in the right place at the right time."
The Bulldogs (21-7-5), the fifth seed in the tournament, knocked off the No. 1-seeded Tigers (25-11-2). Poland won its last seven consecutive games, including three in the postseason.
Bulldogs coach Jim Cowan, in his fourth season, expected a game with plenty of hard-hitting and crisp passing.
"This is the type of championship game you come to expect," he said. "There were a lot of shots by both teams, plenty of scoring and great intensity.
"Even after three periods of play, it seemed as if nobody was tired, just focused."
Poland had allowed just five goals in its previous six games, registering three wins by shutout while allowing just one goal in two other contests. But the Bulldogs had to play catch-up against North Allegheny all game.
Brandon Lied's shorthanded goal at 5:33 of the opening period gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead after one period. Pitzulo knotted the score on a power play goal at 12:59 of the second period.
Tigers led 4-1
Unanswered goals by William Weiler (12:03), Ian Fitrzpatrick (11:19) and Lied (3:51) gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead, but a goal by Poland's Jim Pasquine at 3:05 cut the North Allegheny lead to 4-2 after two periods.
Mike Yatsco's goal at 13:32 and Wyand's first goal at 11:11 tied the score at four. However, Evan Brunner scored an unassisted goal at 10:02 for a 5-4 Tiger lead.
Wyand's second goal of the night, on a 5-on-3 power play goal with 7:01 remaining in regulation, forced overtime.
Poland held a 40-32 shots-on-goal advantage, with Bulldog goalie Cody Hiznay rejecting 27 attempts. Poland held a 9-5 shots margin in the three overtime sessions.