In this edition of Monday night GNASH hockey, rival teams Father Ryan and Pope John Paul II-CPA both found themselves in search of their first win of the season. That win would not come easily as Father Ryan notched the game-winning goal with less than a minute remaining in their 6-5 victory..
The opening whistle blew, and the battle for the puck commenced. Both teams fought for control of the puck in the neutral zone as they tried to get on the attack. Pope John Paul II-CPA eventually managed to gain control after fighting for possession along the boards. They launched a few shots toward the net, but most ofthem went wide. After regaining the puck and putting an end to the early attack, Father Ryan finally cleared their zone and set up for an attack of their own. However, an offside call put an end to their plans. Play went back and forth until Peter Faulkner led the Irish to another scoring chance. He waited patiently with the puck on his stick as he curled in behind the Knights’ goalie, Garrett Bennett, looking for an open pass. There was none to be found however, so he volunteered to take the shot himself. Bennett denied the goal, but later found himself in the same predicament as Father Ryan’s Brendan Huff tried a similar play with plans to sneak a goal in from behind the net. No goals would be had yet though, despite their offensive pressure.
The first goal of the night came at the other end of the ice as John Paul’s Connor Bennett was able to get the puck past Johnny Mugnano on a rebound shot, thanks to help from Jacob Harrison and Benny Ennis at 3:07 remaining in the period. After players reset at center ice, Father Ryan looked to equal the score. William Brown showed great hustle for them as he made moves to break through the neutral zone and past the defenders. His efforts granted him an assist on the Irish’s equalizer goal by Frank Chytil at 2:13 remaining. The Irish’ offensive pressure would soon pay off and they quickly netted another late-period goal to go up 2-1 at 1:45 remaining. The goal, scored by Ryan Prim, stemmed from great cross-crease passing by Quentin Rummo and Evan Scruggs. Play would then continue until time expired on the period.
The second period of play began just as the first one started, with both teams vying for control of the puck. Pope John Paul II-CPA hoped to get something going on an early power-play, but Mugnano had other plans. The Irish would go on to kill their penalty, and the Knights’ would return the favor with a penalty of their own. As Father Ryan went on the attack, their offensive pressure started to build. With that pressure, Pope John Paul II-CPA took another penalty to go two men down. The shots were starting to add up on Father Ryan’s power-play chances, and the tension started to ratchet up as students from both schools could be heard cheering on their respective clubs. But Garrett Bennett kept the Knights alive, as they were able to kill off the penalties.
Time was beginning to wind down on the second period, but Pope John Paul II-CPA would not be content to wait for the whistle. With under a minute to play, the Knights went on one last rush. Maxwell Galpin glided on his forehand side in front of Mugnano until he was able to find an open shot, which he then buried in the back of the net, to even the game back up at 2-2 with 0:42 remaining. But just a mere 16 seconds later, the Irish were able to answer back with a goal of their own thanks to Grayson Schenkel and a last-ditch effort pass from Matthew Henry. With that goal, the Irish would retake the lead 3-2, to end the period.
The third period began with Pope John Paul II-CPA once again going on the early attack. This time their early offense paid off as Michael Singelyn connected on a pass to John Ernst. Ernst was able to get a shot on his forehand and buried it past Mugnano. The goal came at just 32 seconds into the third period, and evened the score at 3-3. The Knights looked to continue their early push and were soon rewarded again as Connor Bennett beats the Irish net-minder on a shot that went top-shelf over his shoulder. That goal coming from assists by Maxwell Galpin and John Ernst would put the Knights back up 4-3. With pressure and frustration mounting, Davis Wesnofske dished out two big hits in a row, but landed himself in the box for elbowing. Luckily for him, his teammates bailed him out, as they were able to kill off the penalty.
Although they weren’t able to connect on the man-advantage, the Knights were still hungry to make it a two-goal game. While in his own end, John Ernst looked up the ice to see Connor Bennett speeding the other way. Ernst, with an amazing transition pass, was able to connect with him. Bennett took the pass and made no mistake with the puck, burying his shot past the Irish goalie at 9:32. Bennett’s hat-trick goal was the third unanswered goal, giving the Knights a 5-3 lead. But the game was far from over.
Pope John Pope II-CPA tightened down on defense and looked resolute to not allow Father Ryan any room on the attack. But just as the Irish’ chances were starting to look slim, they emerged with the puck after getting tangled up along the boards. They got the puck in close to Garrett Bennett and managed to get a shot on goal. The shot rang off the post but managed to find a good bounce and land in the back of the net, cutting the Knights’ lead in half. The goal came from Sean Cato at 2:12, thanks to help from William Perryman and Quentin Rummo. Play continued as time was running out. Father Ryan’s head coach quickly called a timeout in order to draw up a plan to get an equalizer goal. As the huddle was coming to a close, he told his players, “If you want to win, you have to battle for it.”
As the puck was dropped on a crucial faceoff in John Paul’s end, the Irish were able to win the puck back. Xavier Tanner then found the puck on his backhand, and he shot it top shelf, beating Garrett Bennett over his shoulder. Amazingly, Father Ryan had fought back to tie the game at 5-5, with only 1:02 left to play in regulation. At this point the crowd just went nuts, reminding everyone how exciting the game of hockey is. But emotions would have to wait, as this one was not over yet. Then, incredibly, the Irish found a way to score the go-ahead goal with 0:30 left in the game. Matthew Malone got the big goal in front of the net, with helpers coming from Peter Faulkner and Xavier Tanner. That goal would be the deciding one, to give Father Ryan the incredibly dramatic 6-5 victory over their rival Pope John Paul II-CPA.
I was able to catch up with Father Ryan’s head coach Thomas Bernstein after the game to talk about the big win. I asked him what the secret was behind their go-ahead goal late in the third period. He told me that it was a tricky predicament. While getting the goal was important, it was also important to not give up a goal in the process. He said that he wanted his defensemen to play conservatively and to keep the puck in front of them, so they could shore-up their own end first. Then, once that was accomplished, the forwards were able to apply offensive pressure and use their momentum to help capture the game winning goal.