By Frank Foreman
Perhaps the only negative for the Bulldogs Monday night was that Meadville narrowly missed picking up a shutout victory in its non-conference season opener.
Instead, the Bulldogs had to settle for a 3-1 victory over McDowell, a win that was controlled by Meadville from the drop of the puck and impressed an electric crowd at the DeArment Ice Arena.
The Bulldogs, donning pink jerseys in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, had one thing on their mind entering the 2013 season, and that was kick things off with a win.
With Meadville cruising to what appeared to be a 3-0 win, McDowell’s Dan Alexviceh shot down the ice and set up his teammate Vincent Dellecurti with a one-timer in front of the net with no defense in sight with just seven seconds left to finally get on the board, and wipe away Meadville goalie Sam Kineston’s nearly flawless performance in net.
“I think losing a shutout stings the goalie more than the team. He was pretty upset about it,” Meadville assistant coach Scott Phillis said. “He made a lot of big saves tonight and played really well. It’s just one goal. The most important thing is the win.”
Kineston finished with 24 saves in the contest, but didn’t have nearly as busy of a night as McDowell goaltender Evan Szablewski.
A relentless Bulldog offensive attack peppered Szablewski with shot after shot, as the goalie finished with 41 saves in the loss.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score, and we didn’t,” Phillis said. “But as long as you’re getting opportunities, that’s a positive.”
The first period was full of chances for Meadville, as just under five minutes into the game, the Bulldogs’ Jeff Millin show a slow puck on net from the blue line, and had it trickle under Szablewski’s pads and through the five-hole to make it a quick 1-0 lead for Meadville.
Just three minutes later, the highlight goal of the night came from the stick of Bulldogs senior John Gizzie. The Meadville forward took a pass from defenseman Owen Miller, stick-handled around a McDowell defender, and put home a one-handed shot to push the Meadville advantage to 2-0.
The Bulldogs truly dominated the second period, outshooting McDowell 22-8 in the fame. As the second period began to wind down, a glaring difference between the two squads became apparent. McDowell looked sluggish and became sloppy with the puck, while Meadville still looked like it was playing in the first period.
That sustained Bulldog energy led to Meadville’s third goal of the night, a redirected shot in front of the net by Steven Shafer off a Barrett Hoffman shot from the point put the game out of reach.
“The kids have really been working hard, and I think our conditioning showed,” Phillis said. “I think McDowell got a little tired, so conditioning was definitely a factor.”
Late in the second period things started getting chippy, and both teams started racking up the penalty minutes. Seven penalties alone in the second period created a lot of open ice, but neither team could get the power play working.
A nasty hit from behind by McDowell’s Branden Aven late in the second period earned him a game misconduct, and 30 seconds later had players from both teams pushing and shoving after the whistle just before the end of the period.
“We need to be smarter and more disciplined with penalties. We don’t want to get caught up in the emotion of the game,” Phillis said. “A couple of times we had some guys get penalties at inopportune times. Beyond that though, there really isn’t much to be too upset about.”
In all, McDowell tallied 24 minutes worth of penalties to Meadville’s 10.
Regardless of the penalties and even the last-second goal, the Bulldogs looked to be more in mid-season form than a team that was in the first game of a long season. Usually it’s easy for a coaching staff to dissect a team’s mistakes early in the season and pick up on glaring weaknesses.
Monday night was a victory that satisfied an entire coaching staff.
“The team effort was really good. Some games, some lines are on and some aren’t, but tonight everybody seemed to have their legs and played with emotion for three straight periods,” Phillis said. “If you can do that every night, you’re going to be very competitive.