Tied at five, Hammond’s Charlie Black took the ball from just beyond midfield with 16 seconds to play and worked his way to 10 yards in front of the Panthers net. He fired in the game-winning goal, his fourth goal of the night, with 4.2 seconds remaining.
Skyhawks coach Jonathan Patterson kept it simple, putting the game in the hands of who he called his best offensive player.
“The play was for him to come down and shoot the ball,” said Patterson, whose team improved to 3-0.
Afterward, Panthers head coach Ron Ritter was proud of the way his young team played, 90 percent of who were on the junior varsity a year ago.
“I told (them) they had nothing to be ashamed of,” said Ritter of his team facing the No. 2 team in South Carolina.
“It came down to the last three seconds of the game. They played hard, they didn’t quit.”
The last 5 minutes had plenty of offense as four goals were scored after the teams combined for seven goals in the first 43 minutes. The Panthers (3-2) led 4-3 at that point after two O’Gorman goals in the third period. After the Skyhawks tied the game at 4, Cody Hovis scored after getting a pass from O’Gorman as the Panthers took a one-goal lead with 3:29 to play.
The Panthers’ defense which was tough the whole game couldn’t close it out, however, as Black beat three defenders to tie the game at 5 with 2:46 to play.
Panthers sophomore goalie Jared Broder made 20 saves, several from point-blank range and the defense killed off 5 of 8 Hammond power-play opportunities.
The Panthers overcame a sub-par first period in which they turned the ball over seven times but only trailed 2-0.
Striking quickly, the Panthers tied the game in under a minute starting the second period on goals by Alex Bowen and Jack Benton.