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It was late in the championship game of the 19th Annual Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday and Providence goalie Justin Salazar was poised to steal a huge victory for the Celtics.
He had a shutout going against No. 2 Glenbrook North and made a number of great saves to keep it scoreless. Salazar’s work also paved the way for the Celtics to take a 1-0 lead with just 4:55 left on a sharp-angle goal by Vince Kesic. The Celtics were fired up, but Glenbrook North wasn’t finished.
The Spartans responded by scoring twice in 27 seconds and won the tournament championship with an exciting 2-1 victory at The Edge in Bensenville's main rink.
“We’ve got a lot of heart,” said GBN sophomore forward Kyle Slovis, whose cross-ice feed set up the tying goal by Nick Day 1:28 after Kesic’s tally. “Whenever we get down, we have the ability to come back because we play together.”
Glenbrook North then potted the game-winner 27 seconds later, when Parker Roth’s shot from the left wing hit the crossbar and got swatted
home, baseball style, by senior forward Zach Meier.
“It was unreal,” Roth said. “We’d just tied it up and then to score again that quickly was just an unreal feeling. Last year, we didn’t have a very good showing in this tournament. So, we knew if we wanted to get some respect in the state (playoff) seeding, we had to do a nice job here.”
Glenbrook North did by going 6-0 and winning its third tournament title this season despite allowing the first goal in each game. That’s why there was no panic after Kesic’s goal.
“We’ve come back every time,” said goalie Matt Memolo, who also started in the Spartans’ semifinal victory against Fenwick earlier in the day. “I was sure we’d get at least one goal and go to overtime, but once we got the second one I knew we weren’t going to give up the lead.”
As for Providence, this tournament was a chance to prove they belong among the state’s best. The Celtics did just that by beating No.1 New Trier 5-1 in the semifinal round and closing the margin of defeat against GBN — which had won two earlier matchups by scores of 7-1 and 6-2.
“It was a great tournament,” Providence coach Nick Iaciancio said. “We accomplished what wanted, which was proving that this isn’t some fly-by-night team. We’re here to stay. We wanted to make sure we stayed on people’s radar before the state ratings come out and I think we did that even with the loss.”