Leevi Selanne skated through the right circle and slowed as he inched closer to the net. He looked like he was sneaking up on one of his older brothers.
The Santa Margarita hockey team had already done the remarkable against Regis Jesuit High School of Colorado on March 26, scoring with two seconds remaining in regulation to send the USA Hockey Division 1 National Championship game to overtime.
Now it was time to win the game.
Selanne pulled to a stop at the inside edge of the circle, bent over at the waist and quietly set his stick blade on the ice, still seemingly unnoticed by the defense.
Santa Margarita freshman Brendan Williams saw Selanne on the opposite side though, and he slid a perfect pass right to the blade of Selanne, who lifted the puck into the net for a 3-2 victory in Plymouth, Minn.
It was time for the on-ice celebration, something Selanne had seen a lot before.
His father, Teemu Selanne, scored 928 goals in his NHL career, including 44 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He led the Anaheim Ducks their only Stanley Cup Championship in 2007.
Selanne was known for his entertaining goal celebrations, beginning with the time he threw his gloves in the air after setting the NHL rookie record for goals in a season in 1993, and pretended his stick was a shotgun as he took aim at his gloves.
Leevi Selanne had his own celebration in mind.
He bolted toward center ice, slid on one knee with his stick raised in the air. He shook off teammates who were trying to tackle him and kept skating until he reached goalie Fred Taylor.
That’s when the dogpile began.
“I didn’t know whether to celebrate, scream or cry,” Selanne told Patch.com. “It was an awesome moment for sure. I felt like it was my time. I owed the team and had to step up. They needed me. This was our chance to win a national championship and I was going to get that puck in the net.”
The Eagles had done this before. They won the same national championship in 2013, but also felt the sting of defeat in the 2015 and 2017 title game. Santa Margarita is the only California team ever to win the tournament.
The Eagles appeared headed for another runner-up finish as they trailed 2-1 with 10 seconds left and the puck 200 feet from their opponent’s net. Santa Margarita had pulled Taylor off the ice in favor of an extra skater.
Jerrett Overland sent a desperation pass from behind the Santa Margarita net that somehow got past two defenders and hit the blade of Williams at center ice. He raced into the Regis Jesuit zone and backhanded a pass to Joey Felicicchia coming down the middle. Felicicchia immediately shot the puck and hit the net, tying the score with two seconds left.
Five minutes into overtime, Selanne scored the game-winner on a power play.
The Eagles finished the season 30-0.
“I am so proud of our entire team and what they accomplished this season,” Santa Margarita coach Craig Johnson told Patch.com. “They fought hard to the very last second. All of them will forever remember this incredible win and the great lesson to never give up no matter what the circumstance.”