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STRONGSVILLE -- For most of the game, it looked like the Hudson ice hockey team was going to settle for second place for the third time this season.
And then, just like that, the Explorers flipped a switch.
As a result, they are tournament champions for the third time this season.
Hudson won the Black Division title of the 14th annual Walter F. Ehrnfelt Memorial High School Hockey Tournament, which concluded Jan. 16 at OBM Arena in Strongsville.
The Explorers rallied from a two-goal deficit to to earn a thrilling 5-3 victory over Southwest Michigan in the title game.
Hudson fell behind 2-0 in the first five-plus minutes of the game and was down 2-1 heading into the final period.
But the Explorers (19-4), who earned a 4-2 win over Oxford Talawanda Jan. 16 to reach the title game, turned it on when it really mattered.
They scored four goals in a span of 5 minutes, 59 seconds in the third period to take control.
"We didn't really change anything," Hudson head coach Caleb Wyse said. "We didn't have a great showing [Jan. 15]. It carried over in the first period.
"We want more guys to step up and be leaders. We got great senior leadership in the second and third periods."
The game shifted 180 degrees in a heartbeat.
The Blades (12-6-1), who had eight wins and one tie in their last nine games, were up 2-1 and had a power-play opportunity.
However, the golden chance for Southwest Michigan quickly turned disastrous.
That's because senior forward Chandler Kotseos tied the game with 7:55 remaining in the game. Senior forward Max Cole was credited with the assist on the short-handed goal.
That was just the beginning.
Twenty seconds later, freshman forward Miles Harr, who injured his chin after taking a vicious hit in the first period, gave the Explorers their first lead (3-2) of the game.
Approximately four minutes later, Hudson found the net again despite being a man down.
Max Cole blasted a shot from the right side to give the Explorers a 4-2 advantage.
The Blades roared back when junior forward Alex Ploehn scored a power-play goal to make it 4-3 just nine seconds later.
At that point, Southwest Michigan decided to pull its goalie.
It didn't matter.
After hitting the post seconds earlier, Max Cole sealed the deal for Hudson with a short-handed goal 56 with seconds left.
Max Cole, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, had two goals and two assists to lead the Explorers.
Kotseos had one goal and one assist and junior defenseman Alex Nawn scored Hudson's first goal. Sophomore defenseman Blake Lori added an assist.
Sophomore forward Jaxon Dobrolowski scored the first two goals for the Blades. He also had an assist.
Senior forward Evan Wilson had two assists and Ploehn added an assist for Southwest Michigan.
The Explorers also got a stellar game from senior goaltender Stroud Corr, who made several saves on shots from point-blank range.
"Stroud found his game," Wye said. "He has been really solid. Our younger guys are making sow strides."
"It's getting there. We're still not three lines deep yet. But this was a good tournament. We got some guys some ice time. It was a valuable experience."
Nawn had two goals against Talawanda. Max Cole and junior forward Eric Halford added a goal apiece for Hudson and Kotseos, sophomore defender Brady Ludewig, sophomore forward Cameron Slifko and freshman forward Burke Villenauve each had an assist.
The Explorers earned and 8-2 victory over Gahanna Lincoln and an 8-1 win over Thomas Worthington Jan. 14.
Against Gahanna Lincoln, Kotseos had three goals and two assists and Max Cole had two goals and three assists.
Nawn and sophomore forward Joe Collins also found the nets for Hudson. Lori finished with two assists and Nawn, Eric Halford and freshman defenseman Connor Halford each had one assist.
Cole and Kotseos each had two goals and one assist against Thomas Worthington. Also scoring one goal apiece for the Explorers were Nawn, Collins and sophomore forward Colin Dickens.
Ludewig and freshman defenseman Alex Cole each had two assists and Collins and senior defenseman Jacob Movshin each had one assist.
"Max Cole had a great tournament," Wyse said. "Stroud had a good tournament; Brady Ludewig had a great tournament; Blake Lori had a good tournament; Eric Halford had a good tournament and as usual, Chandler Kotseos had a good tournament."
Hudson is scheduled to visit Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League Red North Division rival Bainbridge Township Kenston Jan. 21 at The Pond Ice Rink in Chagrin Falls. Game time is scheduled for 5:20 p.m.
The Explorers are set to host Red North Division foe Shaker Heights Jan. 22 at Kent State University Ice Arena. Play is scheduled to begin at noon.