OLDSMAR, Fla. (WFLA) – The Eagles of East Lake High School have conquered Florida for the first time since 2015 and now, they are taking aim at a national title.
“Ohh, I was just ecstatic for the guys,” said the head coach of the East Lake High School ice hockey team, Jim Anna.
The team lost in the state championship game last season and, although the roster changed, the goalie situation remained the same. The Eagles have two elite keepers and they split their starts down the middle.
“All year, they have been fighting over who is number one,” said Anna, “so it is a good, healthy competition. They get along with each other.”
“We both help each other out, honestly, and it is a great duo,” said Connor Sheridan, the sophomore goalie.
Sheridan started in that state championship game. The Eagles trailed North Broward Preparatory School by two goals in the final period of regulation.
“I felt the pressure a lot,” admitted Sheridan. “I just needed to rely on my team and I knew they would come out great and they ended up doing a great job.”
Myles Bulmer scored the game-tying goal with 17 seconds on the clock. He also scored the third goal for the Eagles.
“We called a timeout and pulled the goalie,” recalled Anna.
“I remember being at the bench when they pulled me for the sixth player,” said Sheridan, “and we ended up scoring and tying the game and we all got super, super hyped up.”
“That was obviously a huge goal,” said Anna, “and I thought, ‘There is no way we are going to be able to lose in overtime!’”
Anna predicted it. Matthew Raleigh scored the game-winning goal for the Eagles less than three minutes into overtime.
“It was like a dream come true,” said Jackson Gentry, the senior goalie on the team. “It felt so amazing finally getting to throw our gloves off in the air and just have a big group hug with the boys, no better feeling.”
Gentry could not have been happier and he did not even get in that game. He started the previous contest so he did not see any action in the championship game.
“When you are on the bench, the main thing you want to do is keep the boys up, keep the boys rolling, get everybody excited, and just be a leader,” said Gentry.
He has an impressive attitude especially because he is an extremely competitive individual.
“Nobody has the ability to compete like Jackson Gentry,” said Anna.
“I have always had it, similar to my dad,” said Gentry. “I just want to win so I will do whatever it takes to win whether it is me playing the game or whether that is me supporting the team on the bench. The main goal is to win so as long as that happens I am happy.”
That competitive spirit, which is shared by both of the goalies, is responsible for pushing them together rather than pulling them apart.
“We are great friends,” said Sheridan.
“We always can give each other pointers on the ice,” said Gentry, “which is awesome.”
“We both motivate each other to become better and we just decided to, well, let’s win each game and we ended up doing that which was great,” said Sheridan.
The Eagles and their dynamic duo of goaltenders will compete in nationals in Omaha, Nebraska, in April.
“Nattys! We are going to Nattys!” exclaimed Gentry. “We are going to be playing the state champions from the other states so, hopefully, we can go have some fun. It is going to be a much greater compete level and I am really excited.”