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After 7 OTs, Ohio teams agree to share state hockey title over safety concerns

Ohio Hockey Teams
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Ohio Hockey Teams

St. Ignatius and Sylvania Northview battled through regulation in their Ohio High School Athletic Association state championship game on Saturday.

Then they battled in overtime. And another overtime. And another and another and another and another and another, until the teams and OHSAA administrators came to a mutual, controversial decision: The game would end in a 1-1 tie after the seventh extra session and the schools would be crowned co-state champions, due to concerns over player safety.

Why not end it with a shootout? There’s a national high-school hockey rule that mandates that a state championship game not end in a skills competition.

Coach Pat O'Rourke of St. Ignatius said his team was headed back out onto the ice after a 15-minute break following the seventh overtime when an official grabbed him and told him the game had been halted.

This isn't unprecedented. In 2008, Marquette and Orchard Lake St. Mary shared the Michigan state hockey title after eight overtimes.

From OHSAA, the official statement on Saturday's state title tie:

By mutual agreement of the head coaches, school administrators and OHSAA administrators, today’s ice hockey state championship game at Nationwide Arena was ended after seven overtime periods. The game shall be recorded as a 1-1 tie and Sylvania Northview and Cleveland St. Ignatius shall be declared co-state champions.

After the seventh overtime, the head coaches, school athletic administrators and OHSAA administrators had a lengthy discussion. Many players on both teams were seriously fatigued and neither coach or school administrator objected to ending the game before the eighth overtime began.

By national rule, there is no shootout procedure in high school hockey.

While the decision is being questioned by fans, the OHSAA commends the coaches and school athletic administrators in reaching this decision together without conflict.

This is an opportunity to show that wins and losses, even in a state championship game, are not more important than player safety. Had a player been seriously injured in the eighth overtime due to fatigue, the decision to allow the game to continue would have been seriously questioned more than the decision to end it.

It was a difficult decision for St. Ignatius to swallow, as its players threw down their equipment in frustration before the postgame handshake line commenced. They had out-shot Northview 78-32 through the 10 periods of play, with Northview goalie David Marsh’s record-setting 77 saves the only thing keeping them from the state crown.

There was outrage on social media over the decision, with some fans saying neither team could, in good conscience, claim to be a state champion.

But in the end, the decision was made: Player safety over declaring a single state champion.

As O’Rourke said, “adults do this all the time – telling kids what they don’t want to hear, and later on they realize that was the right thing to do.”

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