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by Frank Aceto | Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- They won 17 games, had their lowest goals against average in program history and beat the reigning state champions twice.
Unfortunately for the Explorers, those facts meant nothing Feb. 21.
The Hudson ice hockey team's season came to an end after losing a 4-1 decision to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in the third round of the Kent Division I district tournament at Kent State University Ice Arena.
The Explorers, who finished 17-14-3, got two playoff wins and knocked off defending state champion Shaker Heights in both regular-season and postseason play. But a couple of costly mistakes and the Lancers' strong defense ended Hudson's stellar season.
"Gilmour's record is not an indicator of how good of a good team they are," second-year Explorers' head coach Bobby Lyle said. "We ran out of gas. They [the Lancers] took advantage of our mistakes and their goalie made some good saves."
Alex Wakefield got Gilmour on the board with 1 minute left in the first period.
But the Explorers answered when Brent Zubal took a pass from Bo Lori and scored a power-play goal to tie the game with 4:57 remaining in the second period.
The Lancers responded less than two minutes later.
Ben Clark scored the go-ahead goal off an assist from Ryan Hall with 3:10 left in the period.
Hudson nearly tied the game when Brent Zubal got a shot from point-blank range 13 seconds into the third period.
But goaltender Matt Ray made a key save and Gilmour took over.
The Lancers took a 3-1 lead when Mike Mallak stole the puck deep in the Explorers' zone and scored with 6:10 left.
And then Hudson's wheels fell off.
Twelve seconds later, Gilmour scored again when Hall found the net off an assist from Ryan Curtin.
Ray made 18 saves on 19 shots. Explorers' goaltender Austin Ganley stopped 25 of 29 shots.
"Overall, if you look at the teams we lost to, all of them were in the top 10 or top 15 in the state," Lyle said. "We were in every game. It was a successful year. I was happy with the way the kids grew. Seventeen wins for a public school is something to be proud of."
Lyle said good-bye to eight seniors. They are Zubal, Lori, Zach Thibault, Brendan Nenni, Jacob Myers, Pat Jones, Mikey Gaffney and Brady Edwards.
"The big thing about the seniors is they leave this program the way they came in," Lyle said. "They had a rough part of the year and could have folded everything. They really regrouped and all of them were leaders. They really took the younger kids under their wing."