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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Kent -- Nearly 60 years ago, a famous high school boys basketball game between tiny Milan High School and much larger Muncie Central took place in Indiana.
That state championship game inspired a famous sports film that captured a number of people's hearts in 1986.
While all of the members of the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy ice hockey team were not even born yet when the movie opened in theaters, it's not far-fetched to say the Royals recently came up with their own "Hoosiers" at Kent State University Ice Arena.
CVCA posted a stunning 5-2 win over Hudson in the second round of the Kent District Tournament Feb. 16.
"These kids have a tremendous amount of heart," Royals head coach Doug Fairchild said. "They're never going to quit."
The fact that CVCA beat a bigger school is not entirely shocking.
A number of the Royals' sports teams have held their own against some of the best programs in the state.
But hockey is a much different story.
Much like "Hoosiers," there are no divisions when it comes to the hockey playoffs.
The little Milans of the world have to go through the Muncie Centrals if they want to win an Ohio state championship.
And to break it down even more, the Royals competed in a lower division than the Explorers during the regular season.
While Hudson played in one of the stronger divisions (Red North East) in the Cleveland High School Hockey League, CVCA played in a competitive but less elite division (White East).
After their spectacular performance in the third period, the Royals might be ready to make the jump to one of the more powerful Red divisions.
CVCA exploded for five third-period goals after being shut out for the first 30 minutes.
When Bo Lori found the net with 12 minutes, 46 seconds left in the third period, the Explorers had a comfortable 2-0 lead. With Hudson controlling the puck and a shutdown goaltender on its side, the Royals' chances of a comeback appeared to be slim and none.
It turned out to be quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.
Mark Sunde, who is the second all-time leading scorer in state history, got the Royals on the board 35 seconds later. Just 27 seconds later, Josh Polanski tied the game with 11:44 left.
CVCA (17-5-2) got the game-winner when Mark Sunde found fraternal twin Luke Sunde, who gave the Royals a 3-2 lead with 5:37 left.
Luke Sunde, the state's all-time leading scorer, added two more goals in the final 2:33 to seal the program's first-ever win against a team in one of the Red divisions.
"They [the Royals] popped those two in and that gave them all the momentum," first-year Hudson head coach Bobby Lyle said.
John Calabro scored the first goal for Hudson (15-14-2) in the first period. Lori and Jack Braun were credited with assists on Calabro's goal. Connor Ganley had the assist on Lori's goal.
Andrew Pruitt and Will Anderson each had one assist for the Royals. Explorers' goaltender Grayson Kotseos made 17 saves. CVCA goalie Jonah Savitt stopped 31 shots.
Hudson's season certainly won't be considered a lost cause by any stretch of the imagination. The Explorers held their own against a brutal schedule and showed they are one of the stronger teams in Northeast Ohio.
"Overall, I thought we overachieved," Lyle said. "A lot of people didn't give us the benefit of the doubt. We beat a lot of good hockey teams."
This was the final game for Kotseos, Braun and fellow seniors Craig McGimpsey, Luke McLean, Matt Murphy, Kevin Slane and Cole Mackay.
"I couldn't ask for more out of the seniors," Lyle said. "They bought into what we were doing from day one. That was the reason why we had a successful year."