If the Dunkirk/Fredonia Steelers and Jamestown Raiders learned anything from Sunday's Western New York High School Hockey contest, it should be the importance of disciplined hockey.
While the Raiders scored two power-play goals to jump out to an early advantage, they almost lost the lead in the same fashion in a 3-1 victory at Steele Hall.
The win ends a four-game losing streak for the Raiders as they move to 13-4 while the Steelers drop to 5-4-1.
OBSERVER?Photo by John Conti
Dunkirk/Fredonia’s Chris Mulkin brings the puck up ice Sunday, during his team’s Western New York High School Hockey game against Jamestown, at the Steele Hall Ice Arena.
"Both of their goals were on the power play and we played more than half of the period short handed," Steelers' coach Jay Bishop said. "You can't do that. We stayed out of the box in the second period and it was a different game. Playing 5-on-5, or on the power play, is much easier to be successful."
In the first period, the home team was assessed six penalties. Of Jamestown's 18 shots on net in the opening frame, 14 came on the power play.
The Raiders took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal nearly three minutes into the period. As Jamestown's Matt Spunaugle stood at the point, he crossed the puck to the right of the goal crease where teammate Jed Walsh was waiting for the pass to score on a one-timer.
"In honesty, the power play hasn't been clicking for a while," Jamestown coach Bruce Hokanson said. "It was a good way to start the game. The power play is typically set up for the back door like that and we were lucky to get a couple."
At the 6:58 mark, the Raiders scored in similar fashion as Matt Sullivan delivered a back-door pass to the weak side where Levi Madden was waiting to put the puck into the open net for a 2-0 lead.
"That's definitely a mistake and can't happen," Bishop said about allowing a player to stand alone by the net on a back-door pass. "We worked on a couple different penalty kills. I think we need to tighten that up. They have a great play on the back door and both goals were scored that way. We had to adjust for that."
In the second period, the roles were reversed as Jamestown was unable to stay out of the penalty box and Dunkirk/Fredonia capitalized on the man advantage.
At the 11:07 mark, the Steelers' Bret St. George led a 3-on-2 rush into Jamestown's end of the ice. St. George fired a wrist shot that went wide right of the net. The puck bounced off the boards and came to the front of the net on the left side where Nicholas Hart was standing. Hart was able to put the puck into the net to cut the lead in half.
"One of our keys was to get shots on goal because there were a lot of rebound opportunities during the game," Bishop said. "Those opportunities only come when you have guys crashing the net. I will take an ugly goal or a pretty goal. It doesn't matter to me."
With Dunkirk/Fredonia playing a much stronger period, momentum was clearly on the Steelers' side heading into the final period. However, the Raiders were able to regroup and return to the form that gave them the early lead.
"In the second period, I thought we played a tremendous period," Bishop said. "The kids were doing everything we wanted. The keys of emphasis were to have an aggressive forecheck and get shots on goal. In the third period, we let down. When you play a team like Jamestown, you need to play three full periods of hockey. I saw a lot of good things to build on. Jamestown is definitely the team to beat in our league this year."
"That period was typical of our four games of losing," Hokanson added. "We must have gotten lost in the second period. We survived this one. It's been our (modus operandi) lately. We play hard in the first and go in the tank in the second and come back and play hard in the third."
Jamestown put the game out of reach on a Patrick Schmelzinger goal with 12:37 to play. Spunaugle was credited with the assist.
From there, the visitors were able to keep the puck deep in Dunkirk/Fredonia territory and did not allow the Steelers to get any scoring chances the rest of the way. In the final period, the home team recorded just two shots on net - both coming with less than three minutes remaining.
"They were a tough team," Bishop said. "My hat's off to them. The last five minutes they brought it to us and had us on our heels. We have our work cut out for us, but I saw a lot of great things. If we can put three periods together, we will be fine."
Jamestown goalie Tyler Dykstra finished with 19 saves while his counterpart, Andrew Riforgiat made 33 stops.