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February 19, 2013

H.S. HOCKEY: ’Hawks too much for Bulldogs

February 19, 2013 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE — The effort was there but the goals were not as the Meadville Bulldogs hockey team fell to visiting Bethel Park 4-1 on Monday at the DeArment Ice Arena.

“I was pleased with the effort,” said Bulldogs head coach Jamie Plunkett, whose squad is 17-9-3 on the year. “I thought we competed hard. I said after to the kids, it’s frustrating yet encouraging. It’s frustrating that we’re close, but we’re just not able to break through.”

Meadville worked numerous possessions down into Bethel Park’s end. But the Bulldogs were a little slow on the trigger and came away with 17 shots on goal, recording just two in the second period.

“The art of scoring goals, part of it is a quick release,” said Plunkett. “And we just don’t have enough guys with that. We need to do things a little bit quicker. Against teams that are skilled and that have speed, you can’t take that extra stride. You can’t delay or hold onto the puck. It has got to happen quick. You play a team that might be struggling, you might get away with it. But against good teams, you’ve got to do things quicker.”

Bethel Park is the latter type of hockey team. The Blackhawks, now 26-16-1 on the year, have a couple talented goal-scorers, yet none quite as talented as junior Chris Siak.

Siak has around 30 goals on the year, more than a third of Bethel Park’s scoring. And he is coming off a show-stealing performance at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League all-star game on Feb. 14, in which he tallied a natural hat trick in the second period, helping his team win 10-1.

“He’s a scorer,” said Bethel Park head coach James McVay. “Jaime and I were talking, over the past few years we haven’t had a lot of scorers, either one of us. And one scorer can really open it up for the other guys. And (Siak) knows how to score goals. God gave him that ability.”

Siak showed off some of that wizardry in the first period. Early on, he skillfully weaved his way through traffic to open up the goal and ripped off a shot. Goalie Sam Kineston stopped it, though. He would stymie Siak a few times during his 18-save effort.

However, with 2:24 left in the first, Siak again turnstiled through the Meadville defense and gained some room to operate. This time he punched the puck past Kineston to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.

The ’Hawks then pressed the issue in the second, recording 10 shots on goal compared to Meadville’s two. They made it 2-0 halfway through the period. This time it was Jake Worcester scoring on a one-timer from Dan Yost.

“We focus on ‘D’,” said McVay. “Meadville’s got a good defense too. But, like I said, we’ve got a guy that can score. When (Siak) gets a chance or two he buries them and that changes the game. But the intensity, Meadville always plays us with intensity and that’s why we love the rivalry.”

Meadville was much more active offensively in the third period, putting nine shots on the net, more than doubling its output in the first two periods. And Rob Stainbrook had a chance to cut that lead in half when he was awarded a penalty shot with 7:25 remaining after getting tripped up by BP’s Austin Jameyson while taking a shot. But Blackhawks goalie Zach Davis turned away Stainbrook’s attempt, keeping the Bulldogs scoreless.

Then with 4:37 left to play, and with the Bulldogs on a power play, Meadville’s defense misplayed a puck in their own end. Siak scooped it up and had a one-on-one opportunity with Kineston.

“He’s the last guy you want on a breakaway,” said Plunkett.

The Blackhawks’ marksman buried it in the 5-hole for the short-handed tally, making it 3-0.

The ’Dogs ended the shutout with 2:46 left in the game when Bryan Ray swiped the puck wide and went top-shelf on Davis. Magnus Jager had the assist.

Now down 3-1 with around a minute to play, the ’Dogs pulled Kineston from between the pipes. They couldn’t maintain possession, however, and Yost scored on the empty-net goal with 13 ticks remaining.

“We were able to do a lot of good things,” said Plunkett. “I thought Sam bounced back after kind of a tough day on Saturday up in Erie. And he kept us in it. I thought our ‘D’ moved the puck very well to get out of our zone. I thought we did a pretty good job with that.

“But you could just tell that (Bethel Park) has better speed and stick skills. We really weren’t able to do much with a man advantage. So, we’re close. It’s still frustrating, but on the other hand it’s encouraging. We just have to learn to play the game a little quicker.”

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