By Pete Chiodo
October 9, 2012 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
Two games into the season and the Meadville Bulldogs hockey team is still displaying that positive-negative fluctuation that’s typical of a young team just getting started.
And fans at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex Monday night saw both sides during the ’Dogs’ 6-3 loss to undefeated non-conference foe Peters Township.
“We’re inconsistent right now, I guess that would be the word I would use,” said Meadville head coach Jamie Plunkett, whose team is now 1-1 with a 2-1 overtime win over Kittanning on Oct. 1. “We just have to flatten out some of these rough spots and learn from it.”
Peters Township, meanwhile, improved to 4-0 on the year. Although head coach Mike Antonucci admits that his team is still finding its footing as well.
“Out of 20 guys, 16 of them are new players. We only have four players returning from last year — three and a goalie,” he said. “We’re working out some kinks right now. There is a learning curve with that. And we’re hoping to keep building until we get to March.”
The evening started out well enough for Meadville. About six minutes into the first period, the Bulldogs were on a power play. Cade Nickerson put a shot on goal, and Owen Miller spotted the rebound hovering in front of the net. He batted it down between the legs of Peters Township goalie Brian Baker, giving the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, however, PT tied it up. A ’Dogs turnover gave the Indians a two-man opportunity. And two of the Indians’ veterans took advantage, with Trevor Rechtenwald floating a nice cross pass to Josef Kittleberger for a one-timer over the right shoulder of Meadville keeper Austin Guanzon.
“Scott Phillis (Meadville’s assistant coach) said that four of their goals came on turnovers, where we made a mistake and they capitalized,” said Plunkett.
The Indians were off and running. They would follow that up with three straight goals in the second period. Five minutes into the frame, Jake Dachille batted in a rebound to put PT up 2-1. Three and a half minutes later, with the Indians on a power play, Guanzon was getting peppered when Rechtenwald slapped in one of the rebounds. And two minutes after that, PT’s Sam Barnes had a nice feed to Brady Cochrane who was streaking head-on towards the goal. Cochrane buried it to make it a 4-1 game.
“I think we need to be a little better defensively inside our own blue line,” said Plunkett. “There were a number of times where we had the opportunity to get the puck out and we didn’t and they jumped on us. When you spend a lot of time in your own zone running around, usually bad things happen and you give up quality scoring chances. And quality scoring chances usually end up in your net at some point.”
Meadville managed to cut that lead to two goals right before the end of the second period. Chase Vickers put a shot on goal, and Rob Stainbrook got a couple cracks at the rebound, putting in the second one with a backhanded tap.
However, mere seconds into the third period, Meadville was hit with a penalty. The Bulldogs looked like they were going to kill it off. But with two seconds left in the advantage, PT’s Adam Alavi crossed in front of the goal and wristed one past Guanzon to make it a 5-2 game.
Meadville kept battling, however. And with 6:52 to play, Nickerson received an outstanding pass from Stainbrook from behind the net and stuck it behind Indians’ back-up keeper Jesse Borne. It was now 5-3.
But Meadville wouldn’t get any closer. With about a minute to play, the ’Dogs appeared to have an offensive rush in their grasp. Meadville’s bench tried to pull Guanzon, but PT’s Alex Debolt stole the puck away and put it on net with the ’Dogs’ goalie stuck halfway between the goal and the bench.
“We had a good start with the power play goal. And there were stretches where we played well,” said Plunkett. “But I think for us to compete with these kinds of teams, we have to play with a lot more intensity.”
Meadville will try to get back above .500 on Wednesday when they travel to the Tullio Arena to take on area rival Cathedral Prep.
“I really like this group of kids,” said Plunkett. “I think this is a team where you might want to wait until late January, early February before we can start to gel. We’ve got a lot of young kids that are playing varsity for the first time. We have some kids who were on the team last year whose role was expanded. We’ve got a small group of seniors that have done a great job leading. But it’s going to take time. We’ve got some bright spots and we’ve just got to keep learning. But I like this group. I believe in them. But we’re going to have some peaks and valleys over the next few months.”