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CARMEL, Ind. - Carmel (Ind.) and Hamilton-Southeastern (Ind.) is one of those rivalry games between neighboring schools. Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) is the defending state champion, the first in program history.
Carmel has won four state championships and been to the state championship game 11 times. Last year Carmel didn't make it to the finals for the first time since 2010, so that added another layer to this rivalry. These teams know each other well, and frankly, it just doesn't seem like they like each other. The weather outside was brutal, cold rainy and windy but still, a good amount of fans showed up. That kind of rivalry.
I anticipated this game. I wanted to see if HSE was the real deal and if Carmel was ready to be top dog. I've seen these teams play already, I was familiar with the players, their schemes, and the coaches. I wasn't shocked to see the first goal by Carmel’s Tommy Spraetz, a former LaxRecords Player of the Game recipient. He is a beast on the field with a lefty cannon. I knew it, and HSE knew it, but it's still hard to stop him.
I also wasn't shocked moments later when HSE ‘s Cam Smith scored. He is as lethal as Spraetz but goes about it differently. Smith is a fearless attackman, small in stature but big in heart. Slashing, driving, passing he can do it all.
HSE took a 2-1 lead on a beautiful goal by freshman Garrett Smith. The play on the field started getting a little chippy, not outrageous, but what you'd expect to see in a heated rivalry.
The tone of the game was also set. Both goalies, Timmy Mathioudakis for HSE and Joe Gollmer for Carmel started making some great saves.
The first quarter came to an end with HSE leading 2-1. HSE came out in the second quarter getting a goal from LSM Ty Desplinter. In the second quarter, Carmel calmed down and started getting long possessions with crisp passing, but the HSE defenseman was content to keep them outside in windy conditions.
Carmel shot 10-yard shots over-and-over and rarely hit the cage. When they did get it on cage Mathioudakis was up to the task. It took a gritty, hard-nosed goal by Carmel’s Erik Allen to get Carmel’s offense on the board again.
The Carmel momentum was stopped by an HSE goal from Blaine Wertz making it 4-2. Carmel got back on the board with from a clearly ailing and gutsy Asher Mendell, showing how important this game was that he was out there. Spraetz made it 4-4 going into the half.
Make no mistake, this was going to be the battle everyone thought it would be.
The second half was the Spraetz/Smith show as both players took control for their team. Spraetz scored first to give Carmel the lead again. Smith tied the score at 5-5.
The third quarter ended in a 5-5 tie, due in part to great goaltending and strong defenses.
With the wind blowing hard, the fourth quarter started with a fantastic effort by Smith who gave HSE a 6-5 lead. Time wasn't on Carmel’s side; they had to make a move.
Spraetz tried his best, firing shots on goal but Mathioudakis saved his best for last. With seconds, left in the game Mathioudakis stood on his head and stopped two back-to-back shots as time ran to give HSE the victory.
This was my second colossal midwest rivalry game I attended this week, and both were one-goal victories. I said this about the Loyola Academy (Ill.)/New Trier (Ill.) game and I'll say it about this one - it's a shame someone had to lose.
When I'm watching a game I usually don't like looking at a roster, I look on the field and see whose play stands out, then I write down their number and find out who it is.
These players stood out to me in this game.
For Carmel: Brendan Mudd with his speed and hustle; Carter Fernandez he just seemed to be in the right spot on defense during the game, and a player who I've noticed a few times Justin Moore. He plays with grit and heart, he just doesn't want to lose.
For HSE: Faceoff midfielder Tony Cassiere plays tough at the dot and in the field. He has that leadership quality that a championship team needs. Of course, I have to mention my first LaxRecords Player of the game recipient of the year Cannon Elsbury. He led the HSE defense in holding down a potent Carmel offense. They kept Carmel out on the perimeter forcing long shots. That allowed LaxRecords Player of the Game Mathioudakis to track the ball and make big saves. Well done Timmy.
I hope I get a chance to see these two teams go at it again this year as I'm sure it will be as thrilling as this game.
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