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KENT -- In recent years, the top dog of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League Red North Division has been perennial state power Shaker Heights.
Hudson can certainly make that claim. On their way to all those Red North Division titles, the Red Raiders have owned the Explorers.
"Not any more," Hudson second-year head coach Caleb Wyse said.
The host Explorers improved to 20-4-1 overall and 6-1 in the Red North Division after posting a thrilling come-from-behind 6-4 victory over Shaker Jan. 22 at Kent State University Ice Arena.
The Red Raiders, who defeated Hudson 7-1 earlier in the season, dropped to 5-2 in the division. Rocky River also had two losses as of press time.
If Hudson can win its last two division games, it will claim the Red North Division title outright. The Explorers are scheduled to host Red North Division rivals Western Reserve Academy Jan. 27 at 4:40 p.m. and Rocky River Feb. 4 at 1:50 p.m.
"Every league game is important," Wyse said. "Everyone can beat everyone. Rocky River took out Shaker. The top three or four teams in the division can take anyone out."
As they've done in a number of games this season, the Explorers prevailed, thanks to their flair for the dramatic.
When Daniel Ritts scored his second goal of the game early in the second period, Shaker had a 3-0 lead.
At that point, the Red Raiders' spell over Hudson seemed to be working. Shaker made a home near the Explorers' goal and seemed to be relentless in its attack.
But Hudson managed to get the puck out of its zone after that crucial goal.
The Explorers finally got on the board with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left in the period when Chandler Kotseos found the net off assists from Alex Cole and Max Cole. Hudson, which was outshot 10-6 in the first 15 minutes, had a 10-8 advantage in shots on goal in the second period.
In the third period, Hudson's Dr. Jekyll turned into a rather formidable Mr. Hyde.
In a span of less than seven minutes, the Explorers went from the outhouse to the penthouse. Hudson scored four goals during that time frame.
Max Cole got things started by gliding past a few defenders and then beating Red Raiders' goalie Liam Siwik one on one to make it 3-2.
It was all Explorers after that.
Cole scored again to tie the game a little more than four minutes later off assists from Kotseos and Colin Dickens.
A little more than 90 seconds later, Hudson took the lead for good.
This time, Blake Lori found the net with a hard shot from the left side to give Hudson a 4-3 advantage. Max Cole was credited with the assist.
That still wasn't enough for the Explorers.
Hudson made it 5-3 when Alex Nawn found the net after a feed from Kotseos with 3:52 remaining. Nawn has at least one point in his last eight games.
The Red Raiders pulled their goalie and cut their deficit to 5-4 when Wyatt Eisen scored with a minute left.
But Brady Ludewig's shot from deep found an empty net to clinch the win for the Explorers with 23 seconds remaining. Max Cole had the assist.
"We have a thing for the dramatic," Wyse said. "It's not fun if it's not dramatic. We expected a hard-fought game (Jan. 22) and it was a blowout (an 8-1 victory over Red North Division foe Kenston at The Pond Ice Rink in Chagrin Falls).
"We can get better in a lot of things. We need to be better on the wall and we need to be better defensively, but we're getting goals from a lot of guys."
Ritts and Stephen Straffon scored Shaker's first two goals in the opening period.
Hudson goaltender Stroud Corr made 22 saves in the nets. Siwik finished with 20 stops. Both teams finished with 26 shots on goal.
"I told them they could sit there and cry and moan when we got down or we can keep going," Wyse said. "We just needed to worry about ourselves and the next thing you know, it's 3-3.
Against the Bombers, Max Cole led the Explorers with five goals and one assist. Kotseos added two goals and two assists and Cam Slifko also scored for Hudson. Nawn contributed two assists and Dickens, Miles Harr, Alex Cole and Eric Halford each had one assist.
Kenston outshot the Explorers 34-21. Corr finished with 33 stops.
"Chandler Kotseos has been forechecking like a mad man," Wyse said. "We've been getting to loose pucks and we're doing everything right."