FORT WAYNE – The game plan always begins the same way, when you’re on the other end of the ice from the Homestead hockey team: Bottle up No. 17, tie up No. 10, and you’ve got a shot at taking them down.
The Leo Lions did that for 18 seconds shy of an entire period Wednesday night at Lutheran Health SportsCenter. And then, they didn’t.
In the end, No. 17 (Paul Lee) and No. 10 (Landon Rody) escaped the bottle and the tie-ups, and the Spartans – ranked No. 1 in Class 4A – did what they’ve done all year, which is beat Leo 4-1 to cart off all the hardware in the Fort Wayne Area High School Hockey Association.
The Roy Chin Trophy for winning the regular season. The inaugural Memorial Cup for winning the league tournament.
It was the fourth straight city championship for the senior-dominated Spartans, and as expected the road to it went through the other clear front-runner, defending 3A state champion Leo. And a lot of the outcome, as usual, rested with the top scorers in the league – Lee, Rody and linemate Jay Conkling, who accounted for all the Homestead goals.
Our No. 1 line delivered like they do, Homestead coach Jeff Van Gessel said. They carried us all season.
Conkling got the Spartans off to a 1-0 lead on a feed from a falling Lee with 18 seconds to play in the first, and after that Homestead laid down rubber. Lee rifled a centering pass from Conkling past Leo goalie Chase Byerly at 2:11 of the second; Rody scored out of a goalmouth scramble with assists from Lee and Conkling at 4:52; and Rody planted he dagger goal with a second left in the period after getting behind the Lions’ defense for a breakaway.
Leo’s only goal came from Connor Hamilton at 13:31 of the second off a neutral zone turnover, and it was almost immediately neutralized by Rody’s breakaway.
Paul and I have just really clicked this year, said Rody, who skated on Robbie Clay’s line a year ago. Paul can just go in the corner and get the puck, and he knows I’ll be in front of the net. And it’s the same way for me; if I go to the corner, I always know he’s going to be there. And he knows I’m going to finish and I know he’s going to finish.
Rody had two goals and an assist, Lee had a goal and two assists and Conkling had a goal and three assists. Homestead outshot Leo 63-24.
You know, curiously, for some reason all season I can’t really explain, we’ve been a slow starter, Van Gessel said. We started a lot of games we’ve won behind 1-0. But tonight there in the second period we had a stretch there where we just dominated.
We finished the first period hitting, which we should have been doing the whole game, Van Gessel said. And we started out the second period hitting, and that really opened the ice up for us where we could dominate, and we really took over.