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January 20, 2013

H.S. HOCKEY: Bulldogs salvage tie against rival Bethel Park

January 20, 2013 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE — “Dickie always says, a tie is like kissing your sister,” said Meadville senior forward Cade Nickerson, referring to one of the oft-spoken adages of longtime Bulldogs assistant coach Dick Holabaugh.

“But we’ll take it.”

Nickerson crafted a marvelous goal with 13.4 seconds remaining, salvaging a 2-2 tie for the Bulldogs against a skilled Bethel Park team during Meadville’s final game of the Bulldog Hockey Invitational, Saturday at the DeArment Ice Arena.

Meadville ended the tournament with a record of 0-2-1 due to a 6-0 loss to St. Ignatius earlier in the day. But that tie against BP definitely classifies as a high note to end on.

“This is a team that beat us 7-0 a little over a month ago,” said Bulldogs head coach Jamie Plunkett. “I’m really proud with how the team responded. I thought our defense played its best game of the season. I thought they really showed a lot of patience with the puck. We broke out of our own end probably better than any game I can think of this season. I thought we took the body more; we finished our checks. And what a great play by Cade Nickerson at the end.”

Nickerson’s score came at the end of a roller coaster third period for Meadville.

Bethel Park was up 1-0 after a second-period goal by Jacob Salak. But almost three minutes into the third, ’Dogs freshman Trevor Johnson got a hold of the puck behind Bethel Park’s defense.

“(The puck) wobbled by the defense so I skated by and picked it up, picked a spot low and shot,” said Johnson.

The puck zipped past Blackhawks goalie Zach Davis, knotting the score at 1.

Finally, Meadville had something to show to the two-plus periods of determined effort they had put into the game thus far.

“We’d been having some talks in the room here,” said Nickerson. “And we were just tired of letting Jamie down, letting the program down. And we weren’t going to lose this game.”

That’s not what Bethel Park thought, however. Brody Taylor let loose slap shot from the top of the face-off circle and found the back of Meadville’s net, making it a 2-1 Blackhawks lead with 3:05 remaining.

It was desperation time for Meadville. And with around a minute left, the Bulldogs pulled goalie Sam Kineston to get an extra skater on the ice. That skater was Cade Nickerson.

“We pulled Sammy. And the other team dumped the puck down to try and score,” he said. “And I had just gotten onto the ice. And I picked it up at center ice. And they were all caught flat-footed. I think they were ready to go home, you know.

“I went forehand-backhand around the first two guys. ... They were standing still. I just went right around and put it top right. It’s my go-to move, so ...”

Even coach Plunkett was impressed.

“You know, a couple years ago (Nickerson) couldn’t have done that,” he said. “He didn’t have the confidence to do it, but his hands have really gotten a lot better over the last year or so. And I’m really happy for the kid. It was a great shot.”

Nickerson ended up getting Player of the Game honors for the goal.

Yet he gave Johnson a lot of credit, not just for his goal earlier in the third, but for his defensive effort against Bethel Park forward Chris Siak.

Siak entered the tournament averaging almost three goals a game in Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League play, and had already rang up six goals in two games at the Bulldogs Invite.

“He was a tough player, fast,” said Johnson. “A couple times he got by me.”

Yet, Siak was held to a single assist.

“(Johnson) did a great job covering (Siak),” said Nickerson.

“I don’t do that very often,” said Plunkett. “But (Siak) is so talented. I just felt that we should let (Johnson) stay close to him. And he did a good job.”

Kineston ended the game with 16 saves on 18 shots.

Davis faced 12 shots and made 10 saves.

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