By Hartsville Vidette Staff Reporter

NASHVILLE — Mt. Juliet skated to the Greater Nashville Area Scholastic Hockey championship last Friday with a 5-3 win over Pope John Paul II at Centennial Sportsplex.
The Golden Bears struck early as sophomore center Michael Burns scored on assists from Jeong Choe and Drew Bracey with only 1:34 off the clock.
PJP II, which beat Mt. Juliet during the regular season before losing to the Bears earlier in the tournament, answered less than a minute later, scoring off a faceoff in the MJ zone.
Bracey scored after taking a pass from Tommy Lynch to put Mt. Juliet up 2-1 midway through the first period.
Justin Bracey added to the lead with 9:05 left in the second period on a power-play goal assisted by Choe and Brandon Thompson.
Choe then passed to freshman Evan Reams to put Mt. Juliet 4-1 at the 7:39 mark.
Pope John Paul II scored twice to draw within one with 12:38 left in the game.
Mt. Juliet began to play cautiously, adding an extra defenseman with the one-goal led. With the Knights attacking and Andrew Manes stopping shote in goal, the neutral zone opened up for the Bears.
After several opportunities, Drew Bracey took the puck in the Knight zone and buried it for a two-goal lead.
The Bears returned to their physical style of play to keep the Knights at bay.
Manes stopped 26 of 29 shots to become the top goalie for the tournament with a 93-percent save ratio, stopping 100 of 107 attempts.
Justin Bracey, who earlier became Mt. Juliet’s alltime scorer and led the league, scored six goals and five assists to top the stats with 11 points. Choe chipped in three goals and seven assists for 10 points. Drew Bracey bagged six goals and two assists while Tommy Lynch had three goals and four assists.
Mt. Juliet will open the tournament for the state championship at Cool Springs’ Southern Ice Arena on Saturday with faceoffs at 10:10 a.m. and 5:10 p.m. and Sunday at 11:40 a.m. The top two teams from the west bracket will meet the top two from the east on March 16. The winners will face off March 17 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center for the Predators Cup championship with faceoff set for 1 p.m.