By Pete Chiodo
January 29, 2013 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
Monday night’s 4-3 victory by the Meadville Bulldogs hockey team over Ohio’s Gilmour Academy stands as the 899th win of head coach Jamie Plunkett’s 28-year varsity tenure.
The next win will be No. 900; an incredible accomplishment in any athletic endeavor.
However, coach Plunkett seemed less inclined to discuss his pending milestone, and more interested in the improved play his hockey club has shown lately.
“(The 900th win) is something down the road I’ll probably look back on,” he said. “Right now I just worry about the next game. I think we’re better today than we were at the beginning of the year. And hopefully we’ll keep working in the right direction.”
That next game is this Saturday when Meadville’s midget team, the Crawford County Flames (3-13-0), host the Arctic Foxes in a Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League contest. If Plunkett doesn’t get his 900th then, the Bulldogs (16-7-3) host New York’s Southwest/Maplegrove the following Monday.
“I’ll keep scheduling games until we get there,” Plunkett joked.
His players, however, are looking to make it happen sooner rather than later.
“All season I’ve known that it was in the sights and we’ve been trying to get it for him,” said Bulldogs senior defenseman Derek Richardson. “Playing for a coach like that is just incredible. He’s been in the game so long and he knows so much. I’ve learned a lot. I’m a senior this year, I’ve been on the team for four years, and he’s taught me so much. He deserves those 900 wins and hopefully we can get it for him.”
Richardson did his part for 899, scoring Meadville’s first goal of the game to tie the score at 1-1.
Gilmour, who had beaten Meadville 3-2 earlier this season, had grabbed a 1-0 lead with 3:38 left in the first period on a power play goal by Ryan Curtain.
Just 17 seconds later, the Bulldogs were skating in the Lancers’ end and the puck came out to Richardson at the point. He walked to the middle of the ice and put the wood to the rubber and it somehow weaved its way through the crowd in front of the net and slipped between the legs of Gilmour goalie Jason Musarra.
“When we were out there on a penalty kill I had a turnover and they got the goal off of it,” said Richardson. “So I was really fired up. I wanted to get that back. (The goal) helped us rebound and got the wind back in our sails.”
Another power play goal by Gilmour gave the Lancers the lead in the second period. Zach Ritter scored it with 3:30 left in the frame. And the period ended with GA in front 2-1.
“We were disappointed with the penalties we took,” Bulldogs junior John Gizzie said about his team’s mood at the break. “We really needed to rebound from those. And I think we did pretty well.”
Just how well did the ’Dogs do in the third period? Three goals, that’s how well.
Gizzie was the catalyst for each one of those goals, as time and again he carried the mail deep into Lancers’ territory and delivered it to the first open Bulldogs skater he could find.
“I was just trying to work it to the net, trying to get low and throw it to the net,” said Gizzie. “And when you throw it to the net, magic happens.”
Magic trick No. 1: A minute and a half into the third period, and with the Bulldogs on a power play, Gizzie emerged out of the corner in Gilmour’s end and found Mike Bogardus all alone in front of the net. Gizzie passed it. Bogardus flicked it home, tying the game at 2-2.
“(Gizzie) made a great play on that Bogardus goal,” said Plunkett. “He was patient with the puck. And Bogey was in the slot, it was a nice pass, and Bogey made a great play. That was a big goal for us. That tied the game.”
Magic trick No. 2: It was actually a lot like No. 1. This time, Gizzie blazed a trail behind Gilmour’s goal, drawing not one, but two penalties along the way. Yet, before Gilmour could stop the play, Gizzie centered the puck to Josh Orr, who buried it for the go-ahead marker with 9:33 to go.
And the show wasn’t over yet. Two minutes later, Gizzie again muscled his way deep into Gilmour’s end and put an up-close shot on goal. Musarra made the stop, the puck bounced around a little, and Owen Miller took a whack at it. The puck arced up and over Musarra’s head, then fell across the line and into the scoring zone.
Miller got the goal. Gizzie got his third helper.
“You know, (Gizzie) may not be the biggest kid out there, but I’ll tell you what, he works like he’s 6-foot-5,” said Plunkett. “He’s really been playing well.”
Later, Gilmour earned its third power play goal of the game on a shot by Alex Aleva, cutting it to 4-3. The team was three-for-five on power play opportunities in the game.
“They had a pretty good power play,” said Plunkett. “They worked the puck around pretty well.”
The Lancers also had some very make-able scoring opportunities down the stretch, pulling their goalie with under a minute to go.
However, Bulldogs goalie Sam Kineston made some big saves to preserve the victory. He finished the game with 22 stops.
“He really bailed us out a couple times,” said Richardson. “There were a couple glorious opportunities for Gilmour. And he really robbed them a couple times. He played really well, gave us a chance to win.”