The blood spots down Sean Melnyk's jersey told the tale of Rampart's marathon, 9-8 overtime win over Liberty Saturday.
He was involved in one of the game's many collisions and donned the jersey with a smile, much like his teammates after their sudden-death win — a victory that came on the heels of a 7-5 loss to the Lancers Monday.
When his team skated to the bench after regulation, coach Scott Anderson avoided talking strategy. Much like Joe Montana pointing out John Candy during a Super Bowl, he wanted to cool nerves.
So, he discussed the steps that led the Rams to where they're at.
"I told them that we've run stairs and done training to get in shape and win this," Anderson said. "They're high schoolers, sometimes they get super stressed. I took a moment and stepped back and asked, 'How fun is this?' This is why you play hockey."
Minutes later, Jaxon Daniels, coincidentally donning the number '8', broke the tie as his teammates flooded to him along the glass after the winning score.
"It was a long game that went back and forth," Daniels said. "There was lots of mixed emotions and that final shift, we just gave it all we had left. I got a great pass in the sweet spot and put it home."
At times, the game was one of breakaways. Rampart's Kiko Miller notched a hat trick in the first period, Liberty's Brandon McIlhany put one together in the second and Lancers teammate Tristen Brooks captured his trio in the third stanza.
Miller finished with a game-high four goals as five Rams found the back of the net.
"It's not a single player's effort," Miller said. "That's why we play and that was the best Liberty team we've seen in years. It was unreal."
For a moment, the Lancers looked to be running away with it, much like their first win.
Rampart was assessed a two-plus-10 penalty for inappropriate conduct on the ice, leaving the Rams to fend off a power play for two minutes, then the loss of Blake Komrofske for another 10 minutes.
In that span, McIlhany found his groove. He scored all three of his second-period goals in a three-minute span. The first two came within 33 seconds of one another.
The 5-4 lead lasted the remainder of the second period but gave way to seven combined goals in the third.
The rivalry is one of respect. But, with two teams wanting a win as badly as they did, the focus had to stay consistent for Anderson's roster — it did.
"The goal is to win the game," Anderson said. "I told my guys to focus on the details and the process it takes to win the game. The fact the other team is wearing a red or blue jersey — the puck is still the same. Do the little things, no matter the opponent."