It took St. Paul's attackman Henry Riehl just 42 seconds to swing the momentum for his team against Gilman in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A conference semifinal Tuesday night.
Riehl scored twice in the opening minute of the final quarter to give the No. 2 Crusaders a two-goal cushion after trailing at the half. St. Paul's then dictated play the rest of the way and came away with a 9-8 victory over the No. 4 Greyhounds at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Crusaders, who are two years removed from winning just three games, play No. 1 Boys' Latin in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A conference championship Friday. St. Paul's improved to 13-6 and will be shooting for its first league title since 2010.
"We really built to this point now," St. Paul's coach Rick Brocato said. "I love this team. It's not always about the skill. It's how they get along, how they work hard together and how they believe in themselves. They're a fun group to coach. You don't get many teams like this too often in your lifetime."
Mikey Wynne and Riehl each finished with three goals for St. Paul's. AJ Barretto finished with 12 saves for the Crusaders. Chase Wittich scored three goals for Gilman (13-7). Andy Matthews had two goals and three assists, while Tyler Ruhl also scored twice for the Greyhounds.
Gilman held a one-goal lead at the break after a closely played opening half. Matthews then provided a 5-3 lead just over two minutes into the third quarter. The Crusaders, however, answered with 6:69 left on a goal by Riehl. St. Paul's then tied the game at five when Mitch Gordon scored on a nifty underhand goal with 2:52 remaining, setting up a decisive final period, when St. Paul's would take full control.
Riehl scored twice in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter and the Crusaders led 7-5 with 11:07 left. After Gilman cut the margin with 8:58 left on a goal by Ruhl, Jack Pollard answered for St. Paul's 18 seconds later.
"We've been down a lot at halftime this year, so one goal was really nothing," Riehl said. "We're a second half team and we just put it all together. They played a great game, but we just got it done."
Gilman would not fade and Ruhl scored again with 5:26 remaining to pull the Greyhounds to within 8-7. Wynne, however, got his hat trick two minutes later and pushed the lead back to two.
After Andrew Gemma pulled Gilman back to within 9-8 with 58 seconds left, St. Paul's sophomore Tyler Rockhill won the ensuing faceoff to give the Crusaders some breathing room. Gilman did manage a last possession, but a shot by Sam Wancowicz in the final seconds was saved by Barretto.
"It was a rough day for me early in the start," Rockhill said. "You got to keep positive. You got to win when it matters. And fortunately, that's what happened."
Gilman outshot St. Paul's, 37-25, and won the ground-ball battle, 28-24. The Crusaders won 11 of 21 faceoffs.
Wynne wasted little time giving St. Paul's the lead, scoring twice in the opening four minutes to give the Crusaders an early 2-0 lead. Gilman cut the margin to one with 8:43 remaining on a goal by Wittich. St. Paul's led the lead through the rest of the opening quarter despite three penalties in that kept the Crusaders on their defensive end.
The Greyhounds tied the game with 9:43 left in the half when Matthews fired a shot into the top of the goal just outside the crease. Two minutes later, Wittich's second goal gave Gilman its first lead, 3-2. The Crusaders tied when defenseman Chase Bly picked up a ground ball and ran almost the length of the field for an unassisted goal with 2:14 remaining.
Gilman stole back the momentum when Wittich scored with eight seconds left to provide a 4-3 lead at the break.
2 St. Paul's 9, 4 Gilman 8
Goals: G — Wittich 3, Matthews 2, Ruhl 2, Gemma; S — Wynne 3, Riehl 3, Bly, Gordon, Pollard. Assists: G —Matthew 3, Ruhl, 2, Wittich; S — Anderson, Flaig, Sheehan. Saves: G — Lee 8; S — Barretto 12.
Half: G: 4-3