As time ran down in regulation of the New York state championship game Sunday night, it was almost like someone from above held the clock at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum an extra second.
Oh right, that's probably because she did.
With the game deadlocked at three in the final moments of regulation, Chris Wallace took a pass from Mike Marnell and scored with just one tick left to give St. Anthony's their first catholic state title in school history, 4-3, over St. Francis.
After the passing of Marie Drisco, the program's long-time general manager, earlier this season, Disney couldn't have written a better ending if they tried.
"Ever since she passed, we dedicated our season to her," said Wallace. "Just, how it ended, it’s indescribable."
That sentiment rapidly flowed through the Friar faithful that populated the lower bowl of the arena, as everyone involved with the program, both past and present, was convinced Marie had a hand in the drama that unfolded in the waning seconds.
For the Friars, the waiting had gone on long enough. Since breaking into the Catholic High School Hockey League in 2008, they had suffered the pain of seeing opponents from the Western New York Hockey League celebrate in front of them after consecutive one-goal games in previous years.
St. Anthony's became the first CHSHL team to win the state title in nine tries, finishing with an unblemished 21-0 league record.
It seemed as though that exuberant feeling would have to wait at least past regulation this year as the Red Raiders forced the play deep inside the Friars zone with just 10 seconds to play. But Marnell's gutsy effort to elude the hip check of the St. Francis defenseman and find Wallace on the doorstep in the nick of time proved to be enough as the Friars poured out of the bench to mob their leading goal-scorer at center ice.
"I mean, we just click," Wallace said of Marnell. "Once he gets the puck, he knows where I’m going to be and vice versa. We see the ice well together and we feed each other, and that’s how we score."
St. Anthony's had squandered a 3-1 lead they built on a pair of first-period goals by Wallace followed shortly by a marker from Christian Habberstad. But the Red Raiders clawed their way back into the game.
Tyler McTigue's power play goal with 3:42 remaining knotted the score at three, but on this night Marie, er, the Friars, would not be denied.
After a failed power play of their own, they relied on goaltender Dan Peterson to stifle the Red Raiders on multiple occasions in the final minutes before Wallace netted the winner.
With under 15 seconds to play, Peterson stood tall on a 2-on-1 rush, making a save on Richard Larkin that forced a defensive zone faceoff. Marnell emerged from the ensuing faceoff with the puck and sprinted down the ice, finding Wallace just in the nick of time. Peterson made 19 saves, but none bigger than one that kept the game tied just long enough for the last-second heroics.
"It’s amazing," Wallace said. "To come up short in the past few years, being in my senior year, I can’t even put it into words."