By Pete Chiodo
North Hills wasted precious little time getting on top of Meadville, scoring a goal 35 seconds into the opening game of the 18th annual Bulldogs Hockey Invitational.
Try as they might, the Bulldogs could never get the answer past Indians goalie Trenton Pelligreno. And North Hills went on to win the matchup 3-0 Friday night at the George S. DeArment Ice Arena.
Not the start that ’Dogs head coach Jamie Plunkett was looking for.
“Thirty-five seconds into the game we turned the puck over and it ends up in the back of our net,” he said. “Then (in the second period) we turned the puck over at the red line and it ends up in the back of our net. Then we give up a shorthanded goal.
“We have a few kids that just didn’t compete very hard. And it’s some of our older kids, some of the kids that have been with the program the longest. They need to raise their compete level.”
Now 5-10-2 on the season, the Bulldogs have two more opportunities to post their first win in the invitational since 2011 when they take on St. Edwards (Ohio) today at 7:15 a.m., and then Upper St. Clair at 4:30 p.m.
“More than anything else, we’ve got to come back (today) and forget about this game,” said Plunkett. “St. Edwards is a great program, a long-time rival. We just have to compete hard.”
Michael Byrne had the opening goal for North Hills yesterday. The Indians’ Tyler Heisel picked up an errant pass in the neutral zone and brought it down in front of Meadville’s net. Bulldogs keeper Austin Guanzon stopped Heisel’s shot. Then he stopped Tyler Volz’s whack off the rebound. Byrne buried the second carom to put the Indians in front.
Meadville went on to play pretty well in the first period, keeping the puck in North Hills’ end and working up numerous scoring opportunities while yielding just five shots to the Indians.
“I was really pleased with our effort in the first,” said Plunkett.
Pelligreno, however, stifled the Bulldogs, stopping all 12 shots put against him in the opening period.
He also kept Meadville silent in the second. But fate helped him out a couple times.
About five minutes into the period, Bryan Ray slung a shot at the goal. It got past Pelligreno, but bounced off the post.
Then with seven minutes to go in the second, with Meadville on the penalty kill, the puck slipped behind North Hills’ defense. Josh Orr raced after it. Pelligreno came out from between the pipes to knock it away. Instead the puck bounced off Orr and slid to Ray who was streaking down the right side. Ray took a hard-angled shot at the net. But Pelligreno dove flat, arms outstretched and, miraculously, got the base of his stick in front of the puck. The puck thwacked away, denying Ray for a second time.
“If one of those two go in, it’s 1-1 in the second, and who knows what happens,” Plunkett said.
Five minutes later, however, North Hills struck for its second goal, this time the result of another Bulldogs turnover. Volz scored it, getting an assist from Ryan Jaehne.
Now 2-0, North Hills was charged with its first penalty of the game. That gave Meadville a perfect opportunity to cut the Indians’ lead in half before the third period.
Instead, North Hills capitalized on a disastrous power play by the Bulldogs. Again it was Volz, who collected the puck and shirked a defender to get one-on-one with Guanzon and stuck it past the Bulldogs keeper.
“I don’t even want to call it a power play,” said Plunkett. “We just didn’t work hard enough. There is where you’ve got to raise your compete level and hope your older kids will play with a sense of urgency and understand the situation. I was pretty disappointed with that.”
With two goals and an assist, Volz was named Player of the Game.
Plunkett, however, felt that Pelligreno deserved it, after stopping all 23 of the Bulldogs’ shots.
“(Volz) obviously played well,” said Plunkett. “But I thought their goaltender was very, very good. He controlled his rebounds. I thought he was the best player on the ice.”
Guanzon took the loss in goal, stopping 30 shots on 33 tries.