Sutton’s late goals send Wolves to state for the first time

Thursday, February 4, 2016 - 08:38
  • Eagle River’s Sutton McDonald, center, is mobbed by teammates Connor Canterbury (24), Ty McEnaney (9) and Joshua Linn following his third-period goal.
  • Eagle River’s first goal of the evening to tie the score by Sutton McDonald gets behind South goalie Max Irwin in the third period of regulation at Ben Boeke Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 2. The goal forced overtime, which McDonald would win for the Wolves in the third extra period to send the team to the state tournament. PHOTOS FOR THE STAR BY MICHAEL DINNEEN

The Eagle River High School hockey team has waited 11 long years to wear their sweaters on state tournament ice, so the fact that it took three overtime sessions to defeat perennial attendee South High for the honor is understandable.

Forward Sutton McDonald scored both goals as the third-seeded Wolves eliminated the sixth-seeded Wolverines 2-1 in the Cook Inlet Conference playoffs and guaranteed the team a slot in the state tournament.

McDonald’s first goal came with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, and the second was a determined second-chance rebound while shorthanded in the third overtime period.

“I was so tired, and by the time I saw it go in, I was just so excited,” said McDonald following the game. “The feeling about going to state is just unbelievable, it’s the first time in 11 years for us.”

Coach Bill Comer was equally impressed with his team’s effort.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, their team is well-coached, but our boys just hung in there,” he said. “Maybe that was the difference. Our team had never been to state and they wanted it real bad.”

The Wolves outshot South on the night, putting 41 shots on goalie Max Irwin, while Eagle River’s Trent Burnham finished with 29 saves. Eagle River took a pair of penalties for a total of four minutes and the Wolverines were penalized four times for eight minutes.

The Wolves continue in the playoffs Thursday night at the McDonald Center vs. Dimond at 7:15 p.m.

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