Northlake Christian got the chance to experience the thrill in a semifinal win.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, it would be heartbreak in the state championship game.
St. Louis goaltender Conner Cutrera stopped three Wolverines penalty kicks to secure a win for the top-seeded Saints in the LHSAA Division III title game Thursday night at Tad Gormley. The game was tied at 1 going into penalty kicks.
After Northlake Christian and St. Louis scored on their opening penalty kicks, Cutrera stopped three consecutive Wolverine shots en route to the victory.
“After pulling it out last week, we just came up a little bit short tonight,” Northlake coach Nick Chetta said. “We fell short in something that is a strength of ours in penalty kicks. There are no excuses. We played a good game. We came back in the game and showed a lot of resilience.
“It’s just unfortunate that we lost the way we did. We have a young team though and are hopeful they will learn from this experience and be better because of it. I believe we will be back.”
The match went to penalty kicks after both teams were tied after regulation, two 10-minute overtime periods and two five-minute golden goal periods.
For his efforts, Cutrera was named Most Outstanding Player.
“I had to remain confident in myself,” he said. “I just guessed the right way, and we are a state champion now.”
St. Louis (21-3-4) scored in the 22nd minute. Junior Nick Cironi split a pair of Wolverines defenders and his shot found the back of the net.
Nathan Pearl tied the game in the 66th minute for the Wolverines on a penalty kick after a foul was called on the Saints in the goalkeeper box.
The loss is the second consecutive loss in the state championship game for Northlake Christian. The Wolverines fell to Lusher in 2014 in the Division III title game.
“I wouldn’t change a thing about this season,” Chetta said. “The boys fought hard. A lot of people thought we were going to lose this game by several goals because we didn’t have a starter (returning). This team showed a tremendous amount of character, and they represented their school very well.”
St. Louis returns to the state championship club after a year off. The 2015 crown is the 11th title for the school and its fifth in the past six seasons.
Northlake Christian (21-2-8) played the match without senior forward Mason Cook. Cook suffered a broken ankle, tibia and fibula in the Wolverines semifinal win over University High.