There’s an old, rarely used, saying from a poker game which states “We can say that nobody won, but you can’t say I lost.” This is undoubtedly what both Father Ryan and Centennial-Page were saying after Monday night’s game at Ford Ice Center. Each team grabbed a goal, but neither could really get momentum going needed to secure the win. In the end, each team shook hands as the game ended with a 1-1 tie.
Week 7 of Greater Nashville Area Scholastic Hockey (GNASH) started off Monday night as Father Ryan looked to get back to back wins. They needed to go through Centennial-Page for it to happen though as they were looking to get back in the win column themselves after a loss to Montgomery Bell Academy. A crowded, music blaring, North Rink at the Ford Ice Center greeted the teams as the puck dropped and the first frame officially got underway. Both teams appeared to spend the first couple of minutes sizing each other up. Father Ryan controlled much of the first half of the period, keeping Centennial-Page at bay. This didn’t sit well and the physicality started to jump up a few degrees as Centennial attempted to wrest control of the puck away. As the hits came, tensions rose. The first set was matching minors against Father Ryan’s Matthew Malone and Centennial’s Lucas Kilbourne for roughing in front of the Centennial goal and they were given two each. Neither team capitalized, choosing instead to play it safe until their numbers were even again.
Eventually the first good look of the night came from Centennial’s Theodore Whitaker who was able to slap a shot from the point. Father Ryan goalie Johnny Mugnano made the stop, only to face another shot a minute later from Sam Dubov. Dubov appeared to beat Mugnano, but the post made the save, keeping the game at zero. Shortly after, Father Ryan was able to get some momentum as Xavier Tanner made a nice drive down the ice only to be stopped by Centennial goalie Theodore Strunce. Tanner was able to get the rebound off his own shot and make another attempt, but Strunce denied him this chance as well. More looks exchanged between the teams as Centennial’s Blake Sledge almost put them on the board with a shot which somehow trickled between traffic but was snagged up. Quentin Rummo of Father Ryan returned the favor with a hard shot short side of Strunce, but Strunce tracked the puck and stopped it.
Nathan Nowlin of Centennial was given a seat in the box shortly after all of this for a cross check. Father Ryan had a good shot from the point by Evan Scruggs, but Struce turned it away. Some miscommunication on the Father Ryan power play allowed the Centennial penalty kill to snag the puck and run it up ice, almost getting a short handed goal. Father Ryan was able to speed back up ice and stop it, but Centennial firmly controlled the rest of their opponents power play, killing it and getting the team back even. With momentum in their favor, it felt like a goal was due shortly. A goal was rewarded, but not from Centennial. Father Ryan’s Sean cato managed to steal the puck through the neutral zone on a Centennial drive and set up shop on the blue line. As the teams jockeyed for position, Cato passed the puck to Brandon Huff who slapped a shot from the blue. The shot sailed clear through traffic and Struce shut the door as the puck sailed through him five hole. The initial reaction was the save had been made, but the puck slipped out between Strunce’s pads and rolled into the net putting Father Ryan up 1-0 at 6:44.
“I think like everybody, you know when that goal went in, that game could have went two different ways and the guys could have taken it two different ways.” said Centennial-Page Head Coach Mike Burns. “Theo bounced right back, the guys bounced right back, and that’s a testament on how they operate and how they persevered through all of that. Couldn’t of done better.”
With momentum now clearly in their favor, Father Ryan carelessly received penalties for roughing and tripping, giving Centennial at one point a 30 second five on three power play. Nathan Nowlin almost capitalized on a redirection from Brandon Seymour, but they were unable to convert. Blake Sledge and Tanner Watkins also had shots denied as well. In the end, Centennial was unable to convert and soon found themselves on the penalty kill. Sledge received one for tripping and Conner Hamell got one for kneeing to close the period out. Father Ryan was unable to convert as the period closed out.
“I think our power play is something we haven’t worked on much as we necessarily want to,” said Father Ryan forward Will Brown. “We’ve been trying new looks and systems, and different line combinations. I think our weakness so far this season is we haven’t been able to get some chemistry with some guys. We’ll just continue to work on it and try new systems until it starts working.”
Xavier Tanner almost opened the second up with a wrap around shot to put Father Ryan up 2-0, but Strunce was having none of it. The big save was well appreciated by his team as he period was only a minute and a half old and Centennial found themselves on the board finally. Conner Hamell was able to get the puck and take off down ice passing the puck to left Watkins who sent it to his right for Sledge. The back and forth movement was enough as Sledge was able to keep Mugnano moving left to right and beat him to tie the game 1-1. Play shortly found itself back down in the Father Ryan defensive zone as the hits started coming again. The refs appeared to swallow their whistles and let the boys play. One point in the game did turn a tad serious when Ryan’s Matthew Henry took a hard check from a Centennial player and made contact with the boards, but he got up under his own power and play continued. Centennial started grabbed some more good looks and at one point missed a completely open net from Mugnano who was out of position to make a save. Nathan Nowlin made three separate attempts to get past Mugnano, but the Father Ryan goalie stood strong, making the saves keeping his team alive. Surprisingly, despite the increased physicality, neither team had the chance to go on the man advantage and the second ended with a tie.
“Our goaltender, Johnny “Mugsy” Mugnano kept us in the game,” said Father Ryan Head Coach Thomas Bernstein. “He was incredible tonight. Moved really well, saw the puck really well. We can credit our D a little bit with that clearing guys out front, but really he played a phenomenal game.”
The third was once again more of the same. Each team made impressive looks, but couldn’t get past the opposing goalie which at this point seemed like brick walls embedded in the nets. The best look of the third came from Centennial’s Alec Stone who just barely missed the net to put Centennial ahead, but couldn’t quite make it home. As the clock wound down, Father Ryan’s Cato was be forced to take a penalty for interference to stop a potential breakaway giving Centennial a power play with only 1:41 left in the period. They put up a good effort but once again, just couldn’t get past Mugnano who made a diving save across the crease to stop Lucas Kilbourne from giving them the go ahead goal. With the shot being missed, the horn sounded and the teams left the rink tied.
After the game, the head coaches of both teams spoke of their team’s effort for the night.
“Overall I thought the boys played great and played hard. It was a really fun hockey game to watch.” said Father Ryan Head Coach Thomas Bernstein. His counterpart, Centennial-Page Head Coach Mike Burns echoed similar thoughts about his team.
“Well, I thought it was a great game.” said Burns. “I mean sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t match the output that you put on the ice and today all our guys worked hard, all of our guys did the objective we set out to do and the breaks don’t come sometimes and there’s nothing you can do about that. All in all, couldn’t ask for a better effort.”
Centennial-Page center Blake Sledge also liked how his team played.
“Not a bad game, not disappointed with the score. Everyone was working hard every shift. Happy with the game.”
Father Ryan next plays Blackman-Stewart’s Creek on December 4th at 8:30 at Centennial Sportsplex, Rink B. Centennial-Page will be at Centennial Sportsplex, Rink A, at 7:40pm, December 4th as well to take on Ravenwood.