SALT LAKE CITY – When the Viewmont Vikings hockey team skated onto the ice at the Steiner Arena in Salt Lake City last Friday, they couldn’t believe they were there.
After suffering a loss in the first championship game just days earlier, and falling behind twice in Friday’s winner-take-all championship game, the Vikings were in a situation they hadn’t seen many times this season.
“We had never had to play from behind all season,” said Vikings coach Roger Barrus. “Even when we tied Murray we were ahead for most of the game. It was just something they hadn’t had to do too many times this season.”
After falling behind twice to Park City in the championship game. However, the Vikings responded well by scoring a late goal in the third period, and then the game-winning goal in the third overtime to take home the school’s first state hockey title since 1978.
“I knew that if the game was tight, that we could do it, that we could win,” said Barrus. “The kids have really been dedicated this season to win a state title. They worked very hard all season and put themselves through the ringer to get this thing. It really was just an amazing experience.”
The experience for Barrus started with an emotional roller coaster for himself, the coaching staff and the players. The loss against Park City was the first one they had suffered all season, and came as a shock to many of his players before Friday’s game came around.
“They were shocked that they didn’t win the first game,” Barrus said. “They’re used to fighting hard from start to finish, but when you’re ahead most of the game it makes it a little easier.”
Park City’s first goal came in the first period when Noah Pranschke was able to squeeze the puck right between the Vikings’ goalie for the initial lead.
Viewmont quickly tied the game after Jeremy Wiser’s shot deflected off of Park City’s Izaac Polukoff, giving the Vikings new life.
Park City’s second lead came in the third period when William Miele’s shot went to the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.
With only a minute left between overtime and defeat for the Vikings, Alex Barrus saved the day when his wraparound shot went through the Miners’ defense and into the net to send the game into overtime.
That’s when things really started to heat up emotionally for Viewmont.
After two scoreless overtime periods, initial thoughts by the Vikings was that the game was going to be decided via shootout.
“They were ready to win this thing in a shootout and go home,” said Barrus. “I hated to tell them, but I said ‘nope, we’re doing it all over again.’ They stepped up and responded well, though.”
In the very first minute of overtime, Alex Barrus took a shot that, according to Barrus, bounced off both posts and the crossbar and appeared to cross the line for the game-winning goal.
The official called it off; however, and the period continued.
“I’m not going to fault the head official for that; he’s a good guy and a good official,” said Barrus. “He said he called it off because he didn’t see it, but everyone reacted as if it was a goal and one guy had video evidence that it was a goal.”
Despite the waive-off, the Vikings continued to battle and eventually scored the game-winner after Danton Hinerman was able to poke the puck past the Miners goalie, and the celebration was on.
“We were going crazy,” Barrus said. “This was one of the greatest days of my life. Everyone was so emotional with this win, even the coaches were emotional about the whole thing.”
The championship is a familiar one for at least one former player-turned coach for Viewmont, Bob Shegrud.
Shegrud was a player on the Vikings 1978 championship team.
“He was pretty emotional about it too,” Barrus said. “We all were, and to be honest, there’s no better team we could have faced in the championship game than Park City. They’re just a great group coached by some good people.”
Barrus gave the biggest thanks for the team’s success to the community, and said it was “something I hadn’t seen at a high school level.”
“There were a lot of people pulling for us to win,” he said. “The hockey community here is tremendous; I’d never seen that much support for a hockey team. It was great for them to be a part of this.”
Next up for the Vikings is the automatic invitation to the national hockey tournament, which the Vikings went to after last season as well, despite not winning a championship.
Still, Barrus said he plans on having a great time and “honoring hockey by playing hard the entire time.”
“We’re going to take the whole team and just have a good time with it,” he said. “There are some really good hockey teams there, so we’re going to play hard and see what happens.”
Viewmont finished the season with a 9-0-1 division record, and were 3-1 in the playoffs.