By Pete Chiodo
Meadville’s Sam Kineston went from a freshman back-up plan to a championship-winning goaltender after a standout performance in the Bulldogs’ 4-2 victory over Fairview in the Lakeshore Hockey League title game on Thursday at the Mercyhurst University Ice Center.
“It’s … I don’t have words,” said Kineston. “It’s amazing.”
The game was also a big one for Meadville’s four seniors, who wrapped up their high school careers in style. Three of them scored goals and each one scored at least a point.
“I’m glad for the seniors to win their last game,” said Meadville’s head coach Jamie Plunkett. “It’s nice that we can go out with a win like this.”
The Bulldogs finish the year with a record of 27-24-3. It is the team’s second LHL championship in a row.
The ’Dogs got things rolling with two power play goals scored late in the first period.
With 3:56 left in the frame, senior Rob Stainbrook got a nice centering pass from behind the net from teammate Bryan Ray and had time for two point-blank whacks at the puck. The second one blew past Tigers goaltender Sam Duncan. Derek Richardson also earned an assist on the play.
Less than a minute later, Meadville had another man advantage. This time, Ray served up another nice feed. From the corner of the rink, he found senior Mike Bogardus who cranked it past Duncan from a few feet out. Josh Orr also had an assist.
Meadville later put two more goals on the board in the second period.
With five minutes elapsed, Trevor Johnson netted a goal on a one-timer from Stainbrook. Cade Nickerson was also awarded a helper.
The senior Nickerson then got an opportunity to ring one up just a couple minutes later. Fairview was on a power play when Nickerson picked off the puck and took off on a breakaway. Fairview’s defense caught up to him and brought him down from behind and Nickerson was awarded a penalty shot.
He zoomed aggressively towards Fairview’s goal and went top-shelf, glove-side on Duncan, clanking the puck into the net off the crossbar to push the ’Dogs in front 4-0.
Meanwhile, Kineston was shining between the pipes for the Bulldogs in the second. Fairview out-shot Meadville 13-9 in the period, but the mid-December replacement for injured junior Austin Guanzon was stoning them. Among his stops was a key reach-back glove save on a Fairview power play. Later, he kicked away a dangerous one-on-one opportunity by Fairview’s Jordan Kita.
Fairview wouldn’t be kept out of the goal forever, though. With 5:16 left in the third, the Tigers’ Nick Pfeiffer misdirected a pass from the wing into Meadville’s net, cutting the ’Dogs’ lead to 4-1.
Then 19 seconds later, Fairview had everybody in a scrum about Meadville’s net and were hammering away when the ref signaled a goal. Andy Metzler was awarded credit for it. Kineston was not happy with how it transpired.
“I covered (the puck) up and the ref wouldn’t blow the whistle,” he said. “They just pushed me in, basically.”
Kineston had more pressing issues at hand, however. Namely, it was Metzler streaking towards the goal on a breakaway with a minute remaining, looking to cut Meadville’s lead to 4-3.
“Ugh,” said Kineston. “I did not want to let another goal in. I had to make a stop.”
Metzler took his shot. Kineston threw both legs wide across the net and knocked the attempt away.
No more damage would be done on this day.
“(Kineston) played well,” said Plunkett. “He didn’t have much help in the end there. We’re lucky it didn’t get to 4-3. We were looking like the Bad News Bears there for awhile. I think they were just waiting for the clock to run out.
“But Sam played well. He had some nice saves.”
Kineston made 23 saves on 25 shots on goal.
Duncan made 24 saves on 28 shots by the Bulldogs.