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March 14, 2013

H.S. HOCKEY: ’Dogs, Tigers battle for Lakeshore title

MEADVILLE — Judging by the last two meetings between Meadville and Fairview, tonight’s Lakeshore Hockey League final could be an exciting one.

Face-off for the title game is 8:30 p.m. at the Mercyhurst University Ice Center.

Just one goal has separated the two teams over the last six periods.

Back on Jan. 7 at the DeArment Ice Arena, Meadville had to play catch-up with the Tigers for most of the night and, in many ways, was lucky to escape with a 3-3 tie.

The two sides met again on Feb. 24 at Mercyhurst, and again it was a nip-and-tuck battle. The Bulldogs escaped with a 3-2 win when freshman Trevor Johnson scored the game-winner for the ’Dogs in the third period. That win sealed the regular season Lakeshore championship for Meadville.

“It was much closer the last two times,” Meadville head coach Jamie Plunkett said. “They have shown that they can compete with us. The last game could of went either way. When you get down to one game, anything can happen.”

Then again, if tonight’s league final is anything like the first time Meadville and Fairview went at it this season — a 9-2 rout by the Bulldogs on Nov. 5 — the ’Dogs would probably be all right with that too.

Bulldogs junior Josh Orr scored a hat trick in that Nov. 5 meeting. He’s gone on to score in both follow-up games, giving him five goals over three contests with the Tigers.

Johnson, Bryan Ray and John Gizzie have each scored twice against Fairview this season.

In each meeting with Fairview, Meadville has owned a significant advantage in shots-on-goal. In November, the Bulldogs out-shot the Tigers 31-17, then 34-22 in the January meeting and, in the February game, the Meadville icers posted a 32-20 advantage on shots.

“We have been better in the last few weeks with that,” Plunkett saId. “Our shots and goals per game have really gone up. I think over the last few weeks we scored more goals because we were shooting the puck more.”

Fairview has been able to hang around with Meadville in the last two games due in large part to the work of goaltender Sam Duncan, who has posted a save percentage of .909 against the ’Dogs. Caleb McLaughlin was Fairview’s keeper during the 9-2 loss in November.

Duncan also came up big for Fairview in its Lakeshore semifinal game against Fort LeBoeuf last Thursday. He first notched 32 saves and was also the winning goaltender in a seven-round shootout as the Tigers advanced to the championship game with a 6-5 win over the Bison.

Matt McCallion had the game-winning goal in the shootout for Fairview. Fellow Tiger Jordan Kita had two goals in the game. And Nick Pfeiffer scored the game-tying goal in the third that forced overtime.

Meadville advanced to tonight’s championship game with a 3-1 victory over Southwestern/Maple Grove (N.Y.) later that same night. Cade Nickerson, Gizzie and Mike Bogardus each scored in the contest.

“I think they are playing with more confidence,” Plunkett said. “They have a sense that it is getting down to the end. The games are important now. The four seniors want to go out with a win. We had some good practice and I think we are ready. We are looking forward to tonight.”

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