by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Kent -- Prior to his team's biggest game of the season thus far, Hudson second-year head ice hockey coach Bobby Lyle scheduled ice time this week at Kent State University.
Considering that his Explorers were about to face the defending state champions, it was safe to say it was a bold move.
Thankfully for the Hudson players, their coach knew exactly what he was doing.
The sixth-seeded Explorers earned a dramatic 4-3 victory over the fifth-seeded Shaker Heights Red Raiders in the second round of the Kent Division I district tournament. The game took place Feb. 15 at Kent State University Ice Arena.
With the win, Hudson earned a date with fourth-seeded Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in the third round Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.
Gilmour advanced with a 10-0 win over Nordonia.
"It was great to see coach Lyle have that kind of confidence in us," senior captain Bo Lori said. "He knew we could do it."
The Explorers, who lost a 4-3 decision in overtime to Shaker in the Baron Cup semifinals earlier in the month in Brooklyn, avoided overtime despite facing a six-on-four advantage from Shaker in the final 32 seconds.
"The kids wanted it," Bobby Lyle said. "The guys were pretty down in the locker room last week [after the loss to the Red Raiders in the Baron Cup]. It was a great team effort. I couldn't be more proud of them."
He was especially proud of his star forward.
Lori scored all four goals for the Explorers (17-13-3), who had lost three of their four previous meetings with the Red Raiders this season.
It seemed like whenever Lori, who broke the single-season school record for points during Hudson's last win, had the puck at his stick, something special happened.
When Shaker made things interesting, Lori had an answer.
Three of his four goals gave the Explorers the lead and his final tally took place with 2 minutes, 56 seconds left in the game.
"Bo is a leader and a gamer," Lyle said. "He's the type of kid who refuses to lose. He's a great player who works hard. He makes my job easier."
Like his teammates, Lori had a sour taste in his mouth after his team's loss to Shaker in the Baron Cup.
"The guys were heartbroken in the locker room," he said. "I just told the guys to let it burn and then put your hard hats back on."
After Lori's last goal, the Red Raiders (15-15-2) sure made things interesting in the end.
Ryan LaMonica made it 4-3 with 2:08 left in the game and Hudson's defense had to face an array of shots in the closing seconds.
But Explorers' sophomore goaltender Austin Ganley and the rest of his defense answered the challenge. Ganley finished with 22 saves. Shaker outshot Hudson 25-21.
"It was a little nerve-racking, but Austin stepped up," Lyle said. "He has come a long way this season after replacing a four-year starter [2013 graduate Grayson Kotseos]."
Chandler Kotseos had two assists and Pat Jones and Zach Thibault each had one assist.
Arman Gerami and Dan Ritts also scored for the Red Raiders. Gerami added an assist and Nathan Christman had an assist for Shaker. Red Raiders goalie Sam Attias stopped 17 shots.
Approximately one year ago, the Explorers lost a gut-wrenching 5-2 decision to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, which plays in a less competitive division than Hudson, in the second round of the Kent district tournament.
Not this time.
"I told my friends not to come to that game because I thought we were going to win," Lori said. "That loss fueled our offseason. It was just awful to lose like that. We spent a lot of quality time in the weight room and we want to make sure we weren't going to end our season like that again."